Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Broadway Icon Barbara Cook Passes Away At 89

Legendary Broadway and concert performer Barbara Cook has passed away at the age of 89 due to respiratory failure.

Cook, who began her career as a musical theatre ingénue (The Music Man, She Loves Me, Candide), found later career highs on concert and cabaret stages.

Via Playbill:

Equipped with a sweet disposition and heavenly voice, Ms. Cook was possibly the most all-American, apple-pie female lead the Broadway musical stage ever saw. She played most of her important roles while in her 20s and 30s. These included two landmark musicals, She Loves Me and The Music Man—she was the original Marian the Librarian—as well as the flawed masterpiece Candide, and the lesser-known shows Plain and Fancy, Flahooley, and The Gay Life. She introduced such standards as “Till There Was You,” “My White Knight,” “Ice Cream,” and “Glitter and Be Gay.”

Harold Prince, who directed She Loves Me, once said, “I’ve heard a hundred versions of ‘Ice Cream’ but none touches Barbara Cook’s. It must be that the music and lyrics are absorbed by her characters to such an extent they preempt their authorship.”

By the early ‘70s, however, the stage roles had dried up—so she forged a second act to her career as a premier interpreter of the songs of the theatrical stage she had left behind. In 1975, she made her debut as a song stylist at Carnegie Hall, and critics took new notice of her. She returned to the hall again in 1980. By the 1990s and 2000s, she was regularly headlining the country’s best cabaret spots and concert halls.

Ironically, she said this phase of her stage life was when she began performing the meaning of a lyric. “When I first started out,” she recalled. “I didn’t give much thought to acting a song. That evolved. Now I think of it as living inside a song and singing my way out—inhabiting it, feeling it, making it felt from my core to your core. That’s the only way I can explain it.”

Cook won a Tony Award for her performance in The Music Man.

My dear friend Vanessa Williams worked with Cook in 2010's Broadway offering Sondheim on Sondheim. Cook was honored with a Tony Award nomination for her performance.

I remember seeing Vanessa after the concert and she mentioned over and over again how honored everyone in the cast felt sharing a stage with Cook.

Cook was also the recipient of the 2011 Kennedy Center Honors.

Here's Cook performing at the 1987 Tony Awards honoring her Music Man costar Robert Preston.

It was Cook's much-lauded return to musical theater in 1985 for Stephen Sondheim's Follies In Concert at Lincoln Center in 1985 that helped propel her to the highest echelons of concert artists.

Watch her "Losing My Mind" from that concert below.

And then, of course, her rendition of "Vanilla Ice Cream" from She Loves Me, here from a PBS concert:

RIP Barbara Cook.

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