Carol Rosegg
Melissa Rose Bernardo
May 26, 2011 AT 04:00 AM EDT

It’s only natural that a Cy Coleman revue should take its name from one of the composer’s most memorable tunes — ”The Best Is Yet to Come,” that swingy ode to optimism made famous by Frank Sinatra in the ’60s. Yet after seeing this cramped, haphazardly staged Off Broadway show, I thought of one of Coleman’s titles from Sweet Charity: ”There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This.”

The music couldn’t sound better, thanks to pianist/musical director Billy Stritch and his seven-member band (seated on stage supper-club-style). But that baby grand takes up a lot of room; add five actors, a staircase, and additional chairs, and there’s barely room for a couple to croon a love song. Creator/director David Zippel — who partnered with Coleman on 1990’s Tony-winning Best Musical City of Angels — certainly hasn’t skimped on the songs, mixing in pop hits (”Witchcraft”) with multiple selections from lesser-known Broadway works like Little Me and even a few new discoveries (e.g., the S&M-themed curiosity ”The Measure of Love”). But it’s just song after song after song after song…shoehorned into random situations to give the barest suggestion of a plot: Suddenly, we’re in a nightclub! Howard McGillin and Lillias White seem to be on a date; ditto for Rachel York and David Burnham. Then Sally Mayes — who, incidentally, made her Broadway debut in Coleman’s 1989 flop Welcome to the Club — takes the ”stage” for City of Angels‘ heartbreaker ”With Every Breath I Take” (and, heartbreakingly, she goes flat on one big note and pretty much misses it entirely the second time). Then Angels alum York gets up to belt Wildcat‘s ”Hey, Look Me Over” — and belt she does, like she’s singing the national anthem in Madison Square Garden. And then Burnham takes his turn with ”Witchcraft.” What kind of nightclub is this anyway?

There’s only one segment that feels completely natural: It begins with White’s vampy version of The Will Rogers Follies‘ ”Never Met a Man I Didn’t Like,” then segues into The Life‘s ”The Oldest Profession.” Coleman’s paean to prostitution has nothing to do with the rest of The Best Is Yet to Come — so in that way it seems quite out of place — but it’s the only time an actor gets a chance to portray an actual character. (And it’s a character White knows well: She won a 1997 Tony Award playing The Life‘s world-weary hooker Sonja.) Along with lyricists like Zippel, Carolyn Leigh, and Dorothy Fields, Coleman created a whole host of fascinating characters. Why cut them out of the show? C+

(Tickets: or 212-279-4200)

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