Barbara Cook has died just before reaching the age of ninety. For many, like me, it seems a very personal loss. There are thousands of wonderful tributes out there and every aspect of her career and private life have been recounted in detail. And, there is her own account of her life in the book Then and Now which was published last year.
Of the post war Broadway singing actors she without doubt was one of the most significant – certainly for her part in the golden age of the Broadway Musical – for that alone she will never be forgotten. One simply has to think of three shows: Candide, The Music Man and She Loves Me to recognise her place in Musical Theatre history, and, of course, there were many more shows in which she starred.
Unfortunately she did not perform a book show in London but she did perform here in cabaret and in her theatrical one woman shows. Her first appearance here was at a long lost venue called Country Cousins set in World’s End (the less salubrious end of Chelsea). This courageous early London cabaret venue, remembered also for its dubious food, brought to London the likes of Cook. It was there that I first saw her ‘live’ and I’ll never forget her singing ‘Ice cream’ from She Loves Me which brought tears of joy. Her wonderful Marion in The Music Man singing ‘My White Knight’ still causes tingles down my back.
Her gradual move to cabaret was enhanced with her instinctive understanding of the importance of the lyric, a gift she shared with the great Mable Mercer. Barbara Cook brought new life to many a song. Age obviously caught up with her but she commanded a stage right up to the end. Although by the end she may not have been able to reach the high notes of ‘Ice cream’ she made up of that in her immaculate style and lyrical warmth.
Barbara Cook is hopefully sleeping happily in the knowledge that she left so much love.
My last thoughts are simply ‘Goodnight MY Someone’.