Monday, July 27, 2009

Singing May Be Swinging...

But everything is better with Barbara Cook. I feel like I haven't spent enough time lately just listening to my favorite singers - is it a casualty of the iPod age, or just an ever-decreasing attention span? I used to spend hours wallowing in records by Cook, Alberta Hunter, Karen Akers, on and on. I think I'll try to post more like this, if y'all don't mind, just so I have a chance to reconnect.

Isn't she fab? And still, some years after this Australian appearance, going strong today, with a voice amazingly unchanged from the crystal sound with which she amazed Broadway in 1951. What do you suppose Britney will be up to in 2067?


  1. I've had the pleasure of seeing Ms. Cook perform quite a few times. Yes, the instrument is a wonder, but the true joy for me is that she can also "act" a song like no other.

    Thankfully, she teaches master classes. Hopefully, one or two of her students will learn their craft as well as the teacher did. We can't have her be the last of the breed.

    The only downside to Barbara's performances are her unfortunate sartorial choices and truly tragic footwear. She needs some gays to gussy her up.

    If you haven't heard them, take a listen to her three tracks on the studio cast recording of Lucky in the Rain. She does Jimmy McHugh proud with an unexpected "On the Sunny Side of the Street," an aching "I Must Have That Man," and a glorious, ukelele-backed "Don't Blame Me."

    As if the theater career isn't legendary enough (The Music Man, Candide, She Loves Me, Plain & Fancy, Oklahoma & Carousel revivals, touring as Molly Brown and Fanny Brice, the Follies concert) and campy enough (Flahooley, The Grass Harp, Little Murders), Babs gets big bonus points (in my odd little book) for starring as Margaret White in the Stratford production of the musical Carrie. She knew she was in a turkey. She left the production shortly after she was nearly decapitated by a set piece on opening night. Betty Buckley took over her role when it moved across the pond for its short but legendary Broadway run. I have a bootleg of the Broadway cast, but would kill for a recording from the English mounting with Cook.

  2. You're spot on about Cook's total mastery of interpretation; she's an unbelievable actress.
    And I don't know I've seen anything much more thrilling than the end of her big-hall concerts when she pushes the mike away and sings a capella - goosebumps.

    I completely cut her a break on the clothes - there's not that much choice in sequins when you go over size 22, and as for the shoes - she's earned herself some comfortable feet.

    And Carrie. Oh, Carrie, Carrie, Carrie. The worst going-out decision I ever made came on May 15, 1988, when I opted to see Glenda Jackson in Macbeth instead of what turned out to be the closing night of Carrie. Jackson was a shrieking banshee, Christopher Plummer was boring as hell, and out at the bars afterward, we discovered what a terrible, terrible mistake we had made.

  3. The damned spot of regret on your hands from the night of May 15, 1988 will never completely wash out, out.

    I feel your pain. I had considered hopping a train into the city to see Carrie the week before it opened and foolishly decided to wait another week or two.

    When they perfect time travel, I'm going back to see it.

    I'm also going to hit the gypsy run through of Gypsy, the opening night of Dreamgirls, Company with both Dean Jones and Larry Kert, The Music Man, Mame, Funny Girl, Henry, Sweet Henry, Girl Crazy, Applause, Laurette Taylor in The Glass Menagerie, Streetcar, everything that Julie Harris did (including Skyscraper), most of what Shirley Booth did, and every show that Chita Rivera, Gwen Verdon & Jerry Orbach did (especially 42nd Street's opening night)..oh hell, I'll probably just go back to 1934 and spend the next 45 years in theaters.