Legendary leading lady Barbara Cook passed away today at the age of 89. Broadway has lost one its greatest talents, a woman with incomparable vocal ability and a trademark warmth that made all of her characters and song interpretations beloved.
To celebrate the singular talent that was Barbara Cook, we're taking a look back at some of her most iconic performances.
Excerpts from Babes in Toyland (1955)
This brief clip is taken from one of Cook's first television appearances, a live broadcast of Babes in Toyland in 1955. It captures a then-unknown and 27-year-old Cook just months before she began to garner major critical attention on Broadway in Plain and Fancy.
The Music Man Medley (1960)
After The Music Man had been open for a little over a year on Broadway, Cook went on to The Bell Telephone Hour to sing "Till There Was You" and "Lida Rose/Will I Ever Tell You." This video immortalizes Cook perhaps at the peak of her success as a Broadway ingénue.
"Vanilla Ice Cream" (Late 1970s)
Unfortunately, there does not appear to be any contemporary video footage of Cook's character-defining performance in Bock and Harnick's She Loves Me, but luckily she returned to the material throughout her career. This particular performance is from her cabaret act at Reno Sweeney in New York. "Vanilla Ice Cream" is probably the most iconic song in her repertoire, and it was also reportedly her final meal.
"Dear Friend" (1984)
Also from She Loves Me, this performance is from a 1984 appearance on The Jonathan Schwartz Show.
"Losing My Mind" (1985)
Cook took on the role of Sally for a 1985 Lincoln Center concert production of Stephen Sondheim and James Goldman's Follies, and this song stayed in her repertoire for the rest of her career.
"When You Wish Upon a Star" (1996)
Cook sang this Disney classic on her 1988 solo release, The Disney Album, but this performance comes from a 1996 concert in Melbourne, Australia.
Cook never performed Rosabella in any major productions of Frank Loesser's The Most Happy Fella, though when you hear her sing this song, it almost seems like it was written expressly for her voice.
Bonus: The Kennedy Center Honors Tribute to Barbara Cook (2011)
Though Cook is only in the audience for this performance, this medley is an excellent retrospective of her incredible career. Cook was honored with performances by a who's who of Broadway ladies, including Laura Osnes, Rebecca Luker, Kelli O'Hara, Glenn Close, Sutton Foster, Patti LuPone, and Audra McDonald.
Logan Culwell-Block is a musical theatre historian, Playbill's manager of research, and curator of Playbill Vault. Please visit LoganCulwellBlock.com.
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