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Sings the Cy Coleman Songbook

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Album Review

Twelve days before her 75th birthday, Julie Wilson appeared in the Oak Room of the Algonquin Hotel in New York and recorded this live album, her sixth songbook collection for DRG Records, devoted to the music of Cy Coleman. As usual, she was accompanied only by William Roy on piano and, in some cases, duet vocals. As usual, Roy also arranged the selections, often into two- and in one case three-song medleys. It wouldn't be surprising to discover that Coleman himself also had a hand in the selections, since the set included songs from musicals that were never produced and songs that were cut from shows that were. Also featured were some of Coleman's best and best-known songs — "Big Spender," "Real Live Girl," "Witchcraft," "The Colors of My Life," "When in Rome," "Why Try to Change Me Now," "Hey, Look Me Over" (though, oddly, not "The Best Is Yet to Come" or "If My Friends Could See Me Now"). The songs were perhaps the most suited to the veteran cabaret singer since her Stephen Sondheim songbook; Sondheim has written many songs for mature women, but Coleman has the advantage of having collaborated with two major female lyricists, Carolyn Leigh and Dorothy Fields. That meant some of the songs seemed custom-made, such as the closing encore, "Don't Ask a Lady" (by Leigh), and the comic song of upper-class favor-seeking, "Do Be a Darling" (by Fields, from the unproduced musical Eleanor). But Wilson made all the material her own, acknowledging her age while also defying it. (It takes guts for a septuagenarian to open a show with the prostitute's come-on "Big Spender.") It was hard to imagine that there would be many more installments in the songbook series, but if this was to be Wilson's last album, she was going out on top.


Born: October 21, 1924 in Omaha, NE

Genre: Vocal

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Cabaret singer and musical theater star Julie Wilson was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1924, the daughter of Russell Wilson, a coal salesman, and Emily Bennett Wilson, who became a hairdresser. She displayed an interest in theater and music in her youth and began singing with local bands at the age of 14. She enrolled at Omaha University, majoring in drama with a minor in music, but dropped out when she successfully auditioned to replace an ailing performer in a road tour of the musical revue Earl...
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Sings the Cy Coleman Songbook, Julie Wilson
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