Barbara Cook's Broadway, Gielgud Theatre, London
Friday 28 May 2004
There is a memorable moment in Pam Gems's
Piaf when the Little Sparrow bellows into the stalls, "I'm still 'ere!" Barbara Cook is still 'ere, too, having survived the vagaries of a Broadway and cabaret career, as well as a recent throat infection that forced the cancellation of the early performances in this current run.
There is a memorable moment in Pam Gems's Piaf when the Little Sparrow bellows into the stalls, "I'm still 'ere!" Barbara Cook is still 'ere, too, having survived the vagaries of a Broadway and cabaret career, as well as a recent throat infection that forced the cancellation of the early performances in this current run.
"Be kind," she begs, confessing that she's not yet "100 per cent". But though the famous voice may be a little raggedy after illness, it can still soar like few others.
Her follow-up show to 2002's Mostly Sondheim, which was nominated for Tony and Olivier awards, celebrates the last golden age of Broadway - broadly the late Forties to the early Seventies. "I wish they'd told me it was a golden age at the time," she deadpans. "I spent most of it looking for work."
The great strength of her show is that it takes all but the cognoscenti a little way off the beaten track. From Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane's On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, we get, not the famous Streisand title song but the grey-pride number "Wait Till We're Sixty-Five". Similarly, there's the rueful "The Gentleman Is a Dope" from the lesser-known Rodgers and Hammerstein show Allegro.
Accompanied by her long-time musical director Wally Harper at the piano and Steve McManus on bass, Cook glides through an emotionally varied repertoire. Its share of hits ("It's Not Where You Start" and "Till There Was You") ensures that the whooping quotient stays high. It's at its best, however, when it dallies in "neglected" territory such as "It's a Perfect Relationship" from Bells are Ringing (not seen here in London since a revival in the 1980s). Of the comic songs, Cook electrifies "The Very Next Man", Sheldon Harnick's tale of a woman desperate to marry, a quirky counterpoint to Sondheim's "Not Getting Married Today" from Company.
Cook's between-numbers anecdotes are engaging and sweetly told. But her reminiscences of this so-called golden age are backed up solidly by her astute choice of songs. One musical juxtaposition is particularly bold. Segueing seamlessly from the classic "What'll I Do?" by Irving Berlininto Jerry Herman's "Time Heals Everything" from 1974's Mack and Mabel, Cook elevates the younger song and composer to the exalted company of the greatest work created for the musical stage.
This illustration of the epoch's importance, from one of the period's most respected vocal talents, is praise indeed.
Booking until tomorrow (0870 890 1105)
TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success
tvU2’s latest record has been accused of promoting sex between men
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Which country would be hardest to invade?
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 Royal baby girl born: Duchess of Cambridge's second child will be a princess thanks to Queen
- 4 Uploading pictures to find out how old you are gives Microsoft the right to post them wherever they want
- 5 Teen suffers embarrassing wardrobe malfunction in front of deputy PM
Daredevil, Netflix, TV review: Marvel wins first fight in bid for television domination with Charlie Cox's superhero vigilante
London art exhibition features portrait of Iraqi migrant shot dead in Iraq after being refused UK asylum
Grace Dent on TV: Peter Kay's Car Share made me genuinely LOL
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
London Marathon: Best running songs from Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar to 'Uptown Funk'
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
Indonesia executions live: 'Hysterical' families heard prisoners being shot dead by firing squad
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns