This will be of most interest to musical lovers and theater historians, but I think it's so good regardless, that it should draw in some residual admirers. Mainly it's that "so good" part that wins out.
But first, I think it's best to put it in a little perspective.
The wonderful Barbara Cook passed away a month ago at the age of 89, which I wrote about here. I included a video of her singing a medley of songs in 1957 from The Music Man, for which she famously created the role of 'Marian the Librarian.' The year before, she played in another of her iconic roles, 'Cunegonde' in the original production of Candide. Only a few years later, in 1963, she starred as 'Miss Balish' in the original production of She Loves Me by Harnick and Bock. It was a good streak of shows for her. (Though Candide was a flop, it's had a long, admired life.)
I know that that one medley I posted really didn't give her career justice, given all the other Broadway shows she was in. And given that he kept performing very successfully until very late in her life. In fact, that's the point of this first video here, to put some perspective of what's coming in a moment.
This is Barbara Cook at (I believe) age 69 in concert in Melbourne, Australia, with a wonderful performance of her showstopping "Vanilla Ice Cream" from the aforementioned She Loves Me. This alone is enough to post here, most-especially for theater historians, and leave it at that, but -- it's only the set-up perspective.
(For those who don't know the show, its source material is what the movie You've Got Mail is based on. And this song fits in after the scene when Tom Hanks has visited Meg Ryan in her apartment with a cold. You'll recall that he brings her flowers, and after leaving it's the first moment when she realizes that there might be something to this fellow. In the stage musical, the woman is brought a container of ice cream. Which leads us to this song, as Miss Balish returns to writing a note of apology to her pen pal who she was supposed to have met for the first time in a restaurant a few nights before, but it didn't work out.)
And so here, 50 years after creating the role on Broadway, is Barbara Cook doing it again --
Okay, and that brings us to the video I just discovered.
This is Barbara Cook in 1955 – that's 62 years ago. More importantly, for perspective's sake, this is actually before both Candide and The Music Man. The video doesn't say what this is from, but I was curious because it's a full-fledged production number of the lovely song "Many a New Day" from Oklahoma! And I know she didn't perform that show on TV. Doing a bit of research, however, I think I've tracked it down. I'm pretty certain this is from The Ed Sullivan Show, when did a tribute to Rodgers & Hammerstein that year.
(I've always liked this song a great deal, most particularly because of how it builds at the end.)
What impresses me, other than the joy of seeing Barbara Cook in 1955 give such a joyous performance of a musical number, is that she doesn't just get up and sing the song, but performs the character as if it was being done in the show. Because this was a tribute broadcast to Rodgers & Hammerstein, I suspect the performers wanted to recreate the shows as closely as possible, complete with choreography.
I’m going to guess theater historians may be melted on the floor by the time it's over. Everyone else -- it still should be good enough.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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