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Obituary: Cy Coleman.

THE boy was a musical prodigy and the father was a carpenter.

But the old man failed to appreciate the melodies and rhythms rising from the fingers of his four-year-old son, so he nailed down the piano lid in the family's home in New York's Bronx.

Happily, young Seymour Kaufman, the youngest of five sons born to a family of Russian emigrants, was able to prise open the lid and his playing was heard by the sensitive ears of a milkman. He recommended Seymour to a classical music teacher.

By the age of six, the boy, who was to compose some of the most popular show numbers of the 20th century, was playing before audiences in bow-ties at the New York Town Hall, the Steinway Hall and Carnegie Hall.

Although he entered the New York College of Music, from which he graduated in 1948, Kaufman realised that his true strength lay in popular, rather than classical, music.

Broadway shows were the big thing and from his shows came the songs which would be performed by the great stars of the day -- Sid Caesar, Lucille Ball, Tallulah Bankhead, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Junior, Barbra Streisand, Shirley Bassey and Tony Bennett.

Of course, by then everyone knew him as Cy Coleman. His most successful shows were Sweet Charity (1964), with the lyricist Carolyn Leigh, and Barnum (1980) with lyrics by Michael Stewart.

The first tells of the quest for love of a dance club hostess, played by Shirley Maclaine in the 1969 film version. The hit songs included Big Spender, If My Friends Could See Me Now, The Rhythm of Life and I Love to Cry at Weddings. The show ran for 608 performances on Broadway and for 14 months in London.

Barnum, the story of the celebrated showman, ran for even longer. Jim Dale and Michael Crawford both triumphed in the lead part which called for clowning, unicycling and tightropewalking. The hits included One Brick At a Time and The Colours of My Life.

Coleman's latest musical, It Started with a Dream, has not yet been performed.

He leaves his widow, Shelby Brown, and their six-year-old daughter.

Cy Coleman, composer, born, June 14, 1929; died, November 18, 2004.
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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 23, 2004
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