Music Review: Cook brings rich repertoire to Pops show
Thursday, January 27, 2000
By Rebecca Redshaw
As a young girl growing up in the South, Barbara Cook loved the movies, particularly movies that had Broadway shows as part of the plot. So when she left home at age 20 to follow her dream, instead of going west to Hollywood, Cook headed north to New York City and The Great White Way.
That was more than 50 years ago, and she’s being making music on stage and in cabarets and recording studios ever since.
“I always sang,” Cook remembers. “It’s something, in the beginning, I never thought about. I breathed, I sang.”
Cook debuted in the little-known show “Flahooley” and early in her career performed leading roles in various productions of “Oklahoma” and “Carousel.” The last time she performed in Pittsburgh was “years ago” with Elaine Stritch in “Plain and Fancy.”
Her most successful role was that of Marian, The Librarian, in Meredith Wilson’s “The Music Man,” for which Cook received a Tony Award. She also performed starring roles in “She Loves Me,” “The Gay Life” and “The Grass Harp.”
One of the most demanding and difficult solos written for the Broadway stage was composed by Leonard Bernstein for “Candide.” Although the show closed after only 18 performances, the brilliant rendition of “Glitter and Be Gay” by Cook remains a musical highlight in the theater.
Choosing a special memory from such a rich portfolio of work might be difficult for some, but Cook doesn’t hesitate. “In the late ’50s, early ’60s, the City Center produced ‘The King and I’ with Farley Granger as the King and me as Mrs. Anna. We received great reviews, but more importantly it allowed both of us to stretch and show different aspects of our abilities.”
While Cook would entertain the notion of returning to the Broadway stage if the right part presented itself, she keeps more than busy doing concerts and performing in cabarets.
The cornerstone of her Pittsburgh Symphony Pops concert is an arrangement of songs from George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess.”
She collaborates with Wally Harper, her musical director – and friend – for more than 25 years, to select performance repertoire and recording material.
“I didn’t know him very well,” Cook recalls, “but we decided to get together to see if we could make music, and that was in February 1974. And here we are!”