Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Barbara Cook: Let Me Sing And I'm Happy

She Loves Me
Barbara Cook, a lyric soprano whose rousing songs and romantic ballads touched America’s heart in an odyssey that began in the golden age of Broadway musicals, dealt with alcoholism, depression and obesity, and forged a second life in cabarets and concert halls, died early Tuesday at her home in Manhattan. She was 89.(Source New York Times)

Even typing these words make me numb. She truly is one of the greats. (I refuse to put her in the past tense). I put on my iPod as soon as I heard the news. There are 95 songs sung by Barbara and I hear her voice filling our home as I type these words.  Quentin Crisp wanted her to sing at his funeral. He said, and he was right, that she had the voice of an angel.
I remember the day I became aware of Barbara Cook. I have to admit that I came to the Barbara Cook table fairly late but when I got there, I never wanted to leave.
It was 1987 and my friend asked me to join him at the Ambassador Theater for Barbara Cook: A Concert For The Theater.
She came out and opened her mouth to sing and I was transported and I've been transported ever since. I began to collect her records and every chance I got to see her live, I was there. I only met her in passing a few times.
The Music Man
I never had the opportunity to interview her, although I tried a few times, or to break bread with her. This blog today is based on memories, comments, and other items circulating through the internet today. Barbara, your voice lives on and will continue to soar in my heart and home. Thanks for the gifts you have given to the world and will continue to give.

RIP, Barbara Cook, brilliant interpreter of the American songbook, who never hit a wrong note. Her "In Buddy's Eyes" sent chills. 
-Michael Musto

From Wikipedia: Cook was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the daughter of Nell (née Harwell) and Charles Bunyan. Her father was a traveling hat salesman and her mother was an operator for Southern Bell.Her parents divorced when she was a child and, after her only sister died of whooping cough, Barbara lived alone with her mother.
She later described their relationship as "so close, too close. I slept with my mother until I came to New York. Slept in the same bed with her. That's just, it's wrong. But to me, it was the norm....As far as she was concerned, we were one person."Though Barbara began singing at an early age, at the Elks Club and to her father over the phone, she spent three years after graduating from high school working as a typist.

 A true legend has left us today. We will always
remember her fondly and with love. RIP Barbara Cook
-Behind The Curtain

Just this past year, Ms. Cook was scheduled to come back to Broadway in an autobiographical show a la Elaine Stritch's At Liberty. It was much ballyhooed and it landed like a ton of bricks when it was announced that it was postponed...indefinitely. Robert Viagas wrote about it on Playbill.com. I am posted his article here with his permission: Don't let it end, dear friend!

Barbara Cook has canceled her widely ballyhooed return to the New York stage in a concert show conceived by James Lapine and directed by ten-time Tony winner Tommy Tune.
Barbara Cook: Then and Now was to have played 65 scheduled performances April 13-June 26 at Off-Broadway's New World Stages–Stage One. But producer Producer Furman, in association with Sandy Robertson and Luigi Caiola, released a statement saying, “Yesterday, after meeting with Barbara, Tommy and James, the

decision was made to postpone the production. Barbara has spent the last several months working very hard to finish her book. Going directly into rehearsal to create this new production was causing undue pressure and stress. Despite strong ticket sales and everyone's best intentions, we all agreed it was best to postpone the production.” (Read MORE)

Robert also has a great chapter about Barbara in his wonderful book, I'm The Greatest Star.

Also from Playbill.com, a year ago at this time, she sat down with Andrew Gans to discuss her revealing new book, working with Wally Harper and Elaine Stritch and her thoughts on the current political race. HERE is that article.

Barbara Cook in concert at Carnegie Hall in 2006. Credit Richard Termine for The New York Times
Thank you Barbara Cook for the beautiful songs, the indelible characters, and the masterful
storytelling. Heaven must sound glorious today.
-Ben Platt 

While visiting Manhattan in 1948 with her mother, Cook decided to stay and try to find work as an actress. She began to sing at clubs and resorts, eventually procuring an engagement at the Blue Angel club in 1950. She made her Broadway debut a year later, as Sandy in the short-lived 1951 musical Flahooley. She landed another role quickly, portraying Ado Annie in the 1951 City Center revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! and stayed with the production when it went on its national tour the following year. while I was in school...Professional acting and singing was for other people....

The first time I ever met Barbara Cook was after a benefit concert she did at the now (unfortunately) defunct Players Theatre Columbus. 
Thank God she was honored at The Kennedy Center Honors a few years ago
I was rehearsing for their upcoming production of CABARET and was with one of my cast mates, the late Evelyn Page.  Evelyn was playing Schneider in our CABARET and had worked with Barbara when she replaced Shirl Conway in PLAIN AND FANCY on Broadway decades earlier.  Evelyn and I had front row seats for this remarkable evening (but then what performance Ms. Cook gave was NOT remarkable?), in which she spoke briefly about one of her great inspirations, the late Mabel Mercer.  At the performance's conclusion, during a
Barbara Cook and Adam Le Grant arrive for the formal Artist's Dinner
standing ovation, Ms. Cook glimpsed Ms. Page for what most have been the first time in perhaps thirty years.  They hugged each other across the footlights in front of an audience of thousands and afterwards, we were heralded into the star's dressing room to chat.  The years melted away between these two ladies, and while the local press took photos, Evelyn formally introduced me to Ms. Cook.  I was more than a little bit star struck and Evelyn very graciously raved about my singing to Ms. Cook.  I told her that the way she always spoke about the great Mabel Mercer was the way I felt about her.  She hugged me warmly and seemed very pleased at my sentiment.  

Carnegie Hall remembers the life of Barbara Cook, who performed at Carnegie Hall 25 times. Learn more:
We met several times more over the years and although she probably didn't remember our first meeting, I would remind her and she always graciously pretended to recall the moment. 

Hi, Richard --
I have a Barbara Cook story!
A number of years ago, I was in attendance at the Lincoln Center Tower Records when they had a DVD launch event for Rick McKay's "Broadway: the Golden Age." There was a live interview with Rick and several stars who appear in the documentary:  Patricia Neal, Jane Powell, Sally Ann Howes, Carol Lawrence ... and Barbara Cook. After the interview, Rick threw it open to the audience for a Q & A. Suddenly, something occurred to me; I raised my hand and Rick called upon me. I stood up and said, "Something just dawned upon me ... do our four musical ladies know that they all have a theatrical credit in common?" The ladies all looked at each other, but nobody knew. So I said it: "At one time or another, each of you played Maria in The Sound of Music ..." I went on: "does anyone have a story or anything they remember about their production of The Sound of Music?" Carol Lawrence told a hilarious story on herself about a flubbed line which innocently became a double entendre ... Barbara Cook said, "Oh, my, it was such a long time ago - I don't even remember when and where I did it." I offered, "I
Barbara Cook and Robert Preston in The Music Man
do -- you did it at the St. Louis Muny Opera in 1964." The audience gasped and chuckled ... Jane Powell looked at Carol Lawrence next to her and tapped her temple as if to say, "This guy is smart" ... and Barbara Cook, with a hint of something (?) in her voice, blurted out, "How do you know these things??" So I said, "Well, I just read a lot...," and she went on:  "No, I mean, how do you know them?!" I clarified, "I was doing research at the library next door on The Sound of Music, and I came across all these playbills." Everybody was delighted with the answer, and I think Barbara Cook was relieved to know that I was indeed a Broadway musicals fan, and not a private investigator from the FBI, who was
tracking her life's whereabouts! :

All the best,
Bruce Bider (Editor's Note: I was there and remember this!

On the Shelf: Barbara Cook Tells All (and What a Tale!)
By Steven Suskin
From Jaymie Meyer
Sitting here listening to her Live from London album, my heart is heavy, but oh so grateful for the gift of meeting Barbara Cook and being continually thrilled and inspired by her talents. Michael Kerker took me backstage after one of the many performances I attended at the Cafe Carlyle. It was just before my Carnegie Hall debut. She enveloped my hands with her warm fingers and squeezed tight and said, “Have fun! Just have fun! That’s all you need to worry about!” And so I did. I’ll never forget the kind management at the Carlyle who let me stay so many times for her late shows and sit at the bar for free(!). Rapt on her every word - and in awe of the genius of pianist/arranger Wally Harper - Barbara remains for me, the greatest. RIP.

From Beth Feldman:
Dear Richard,
This is a memory of Barbara Cook.
I fell in love with Barbara Cook's work when I was a little girl. We had the original cast album that
Barbara Cook and Robert Preston in The Music Man
she was on as you know.
My father's Army buddy,Iggie Wolfington was also in the original cast as Marcellus Washburn and sang what I heard was the show-stopping song,  "Shipoopi". In 1979 my husband Mark and I were in Paris and saw a flyer that Barbara Cook was starring at the Pierre Cardin theatre that night. We ran over to the theatre and bought tickets. She was magnificent!
Years later in FL, we saw Barbara Cook in concert with the Ft. Lauderdale Gay Men's Choir and it was enchanting!
When I was in high school we performed The Music Man and I was one of the four Pick a Little ladies.
Mark and I went to see Dick Van Dyke as Harold Hill on Broadway AND Iggie Wolfington was in it again, this time as Mayor Shinn. We went backstage to see Iggie and took photos and it was thrilling to meet my Dad's army buddy! (WWII -Germany)

Barbara Cook and Eddie Hodges in The Music Man
In the 90's we took the family and friends to see Craig Bierko and Rebecca Luker in the Music Man as well.
I've seen the Music Man in NC summer stock and my daughter Alisha played Maude Dunlop in middle school, the same role I played coincidentally!
So sad and sorry this beautiful angel Barbara Cook has left us.
I will forever be grateful for all the joy she brought me through her talent and sweet personality. 

From Penny Landau for NiteLife Exchange:
Legendary singer/actress Barbara Cook passed away this morning at the age of 89, of respiratory failure. The favorite of both Broadway, cabaret and concert audiences, Cook died in her Manhattan apartment with family and friends by her side. Her last meal, we are told, was one of love of theatre and her role in it – vanilla ice cream. (Read MORE)
Barbara Cook 1965
From Bart Greenberg
Here's one that shows both Barbara's dedications to her fans and their adoration of her.
Back when I was running events at Barnes and Noble, Barbara was scheduled to come in to perform and promote her newest CD. On the morning of the event, she called Steven Sorrentino in our main office. She was so hoarse that at first he didn't even recognize her voice. She had awoken with the worse case of laryngitis and could not sing. However, she still offered to come to the store to explain to the audience what had happened. Steven ordered her to remain in bed.

It fell to me to stand by the doors to the event space and explain what had occurred. The amazing thing was not a single person complained situation, despite people having traveled as far as from Virginia to see Barbara. All I heard were genuine expressions of concern for the star's health and requests for us to extend their wishes for a quick healing to her. I don't think there was another Broadway star who had earned such devotion.

From Eileen Lacy:
Today is a truly sad day, the day Barbara Cook was lost to us. I first became aware of her and her glorious voice when I saw "The Music Man" (yes, I am that old). When I was living for many years in the New Jersey suburbs raising my three children, stranded and rusticating except for occasional forays into Manhattan, I would listen to Barbara's albums over and over again.  I remember wearing out the part on the disc of "She Loves Me" by pulling the arm back to listen repeatedly to "Ice Cream" " My life took a fortunate turn in the mid-80s when my husband and I moved back to the City. We went to see Barbara all over town, at Reno Sweeney's, Carnegie Hall, the Carlisle, and even took a trip back to NJ to see her at a performance in a Hackensack High School, where she appeared with Mel Torme', a strange pairing.


Photo used by permission from Donna Murphy
Rest In peace and love dearest Barbara Cook. A song's best friend.Thank u for your artistry,integrity,humanity,inspiration and support. Loved her so and her voice and devotion to music will live eternally. -Donna Murphy

Broadway will never have another quite like her. Barbara Cook was a legend on big stages and
-Mayor Bill DeBlasio

Broadway to dim its marquee lights tomorrow (Wed) at 7.45pm for one minute in honor of Barbara Cook. 
Sing a Song with Me

The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new. - Socrates

You have the power to change anything, because you are the one who chooses your thoughts and feels your feelings.

Here are a Few Testimonials for Richard Skipper Celebrates: Next One September 10th 1PM Laurie Beechman Theater: Reserve HERE:
w/Ann Dawson, Emily McNamara, Ben Rimalower... AND a Beloved Cabaret Mystery Guest

What a wonderful afternoon at Richard Skipper Celebrates! I'd had a very trying morning on Sunday,
Ben Rimalower guests in Richard Skipper Celebrates September 10th
and I wasn't in the best of moods when I arrived, but within seconds of the show starting, all tension slipped away and I could feel the smile creeping across my face, a smile I kept for days after.
-Doug Devita
Congratulations Richard Skipper and Russ Woolley on another wonderful "Richard Skipper Celebrates" production at the Laurie Beechman Theater on 6/18/17. Wonderful production, wonderful host, and wonderful guests. How can it get better than that? It can't! See you in September.
Craig Witham, Philadelphia, Pa 
I attended the premiere edition of Richard Skipper Celebrates last May, and wrote at the time, "...the musical entertainment blew the roof off the joint..".
-Avi Duvdevani

Sit Back! A New News Cycle Is About to Begin!

Thank you, to ALL who are mentioned in this blog for showing me that it is up to ME to lead by example!

With grateful XOXOXs , 

Make A Dream Come True! Become a part of the Call On Dolly Project by contributing to Our Go Fund Me Page Today #CallonDolly


Please LIKE (if you do!) and SHARE!


Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!  

Keeping America great through Art!     

Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!
Please leave a comment and share on Twitter and Facebook
Keeping Entertainment LIVE!

Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com 

1 comment:

  1. Did you know you can create short links with AdFly and get dollars for every click on your shortened links.