August 9, 2017

20,000 Vinyl LPs 101: The Gay Life with Barbara Cook

The Gay Life ~ Barbara Cook
vinyl LP album cover
photo by Styrous®

Barbara Cook died yesterday, Tuesday, August 8, 2017. Cook was one of the bastions of Broadway musical singers.

Cook came to prominence in the 1950s. She made her Broadway debut in Flahooley which starred Yma Sumac (1951). She continued performing mostly in theatre until the mid-1970s, when she began a second career as a cabaret and concert singer.

During her years as Broadway’s leading ingénue Cook was lauded for her excellent lyric soprano voice. She was particularly admired for her vocal agility, wide range, warm sound, and emotive interpretations. As she aged her voice took on a darker quality, even in her head voice, that was less prominent in her youth.      

The Gay Life ~ Barbara Cook
vinyl LP album back cover
photo by Styrous®

Cook was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on October 25, 1927. She began singing at an early age, at the Elks Club. She spent three years after graduating from high school working as a typist.   
In 1948, Cook decided to try to find work as an actress in New York. She began to sing at clubs and resorts, eventually procuring an engagement at the Blue Angel club in 1950.      

Cook's clear soprano voice enabled her to win the role of Cunegonde in the Leonard Bernstein operetta Candide in 1956. She became famous for the show stopping song, Glitter and Be Gay. Although Candide was not a commercial success, Cook's portrayal of Cunegonde established her as one of Broadway's leading ingenues.

Barbara Cook as Cunegonde, Candide - 1956 

Her two most famous roles after Candide were her Tony Award winning portrayal of Marian the Librarian in the Meredith Willson 1957 hit The Music Man and as Amalia Balash in the 1962 Jerry Bock-Sheldon Harnick musical She Loves Me.    

In 1994, Cook was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame. In 1997, she celebrated her 70th birthday by giving a concert at Albert Hall in London with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in November, joined by performers including Elaine Stritch and Maria Friedman. The Times reviewer noted: "The world is usually divided into actresses who try to sing and singers who try to act. Cook is one of the few performers who manage to combine the best of both traditions, as she reminded us in It Might as Well be Spring by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II - and, at the close, in her encore of the Bock and Harnick song, Ice Cream." 

On October 22, 2007, Cook sang at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts with the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men's Chorus in the chorus's concert entitled "An Evening With Barbara Cook". Upon completion of the concert, an almost full house greeted her with a round of Happy Birthday in honor of her impending 80th birthday, which, on December 2, 2007, she celebrated belatedly in the UK with a concert at the Coliseum Theatre in London's West End.   

As she entered her ninth decade, Cook performed in two sold-out concerts with the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center in 2007.       

On April 12, 2011, Cook appeared with James Taylor, Bette Midler and Sting, at Carnegie Hall for a gala called "Celebrating 120 Years of Carnegie Hall".          

At the time of her death, Cook was widely recognized as one of the "premier interpreters" of musical theatre songs and standards, in particular the songs of composer Stephen Sondheim. Her subtle and sensitive interpretations of American popular song continued to earn high praise even into her eighties. She was named an honoree at the 2011 Kennedy Center Honors.        

Cook died from respiratory failure yesterday, August 8, 2017 at her Manhattan home. She was 89 years old. The marquee lights of the Broadway theaters will be dimmed for one minute in tribute to Cook, tonight, August 9.      

The Gay Life is a musical with a book by Fay and Michael Kanin, lyrics by Howard Dietz, and music by Arthur Schwartz.      

Based on a cycle of seven short plays by Arthur Schnitzler, published in 1893 and first staged in 1910, The Gay Life focuses on womanizing playboy Anatol Von Huber. The score is a mixture of traditional Broadway show tunes and operetta.       


Side 1:

A1 – Herbert Greene     Overture   
A2 – The Gay Life Ensemble     What A Charming Couple   
A3 – Jeanne Bal     Why Go Anywhere At All?   
A4 – Jules Munshin     Bring Your Darling Daughter   
A5 – Walter Chiari, Jules Munshin     Now I'm Ready For A Frau   
A6 – Barbara Cook     Magic Moment   
A7 – Walter Chiari, Barbara Cook     Who Can? You Can!   
A8 – The Gay Life Ensemble     Oh, Mein Liebchen   
A9 – Barbara Cook     The Label On The Bottle   

Side 2:

B1 – Walter Chiari, Barbara Cook     This Kind Of Girl   
B2 – Jules Munshin     The Bloom Is Off The Rose   
B3 – Walter Chiari, Jules Munshin     I'm Glad I'm Single   
B4 – Barbara Cook     Something You Never Had Before   
B5 – Jules Munshin, Lu Leonard, Loring Smith     You Will Never Be Lonely   
B6 – Walter Chiari, Barbara Cook     You're Not The Type   
B7 – Elizabeth Allen     Come A-Wandering With Me   
B8 – Walter Chiari, Jules Munshin     I Never Had A Chance   
B9 – Barbara Cook     I Wouldn't Marry You   
B? – Walter Chiari     And For The First Time   
B10 – The Gay Life Ensemble     Finale   


    Conductor – Herbert Greene
    Lyrics By – Arthur Schwartz, Howard Dietz
    Music By – Arthur Schwartz, Howard Dietz


Capitol Full Dimensional Stereo

Walter Chiari, Barbara Cook, Jules Munshin ‎– The Gay Life (Original Broadway Cast)
Label: Capitol Records ‎– SWAO 1560
Format: vinyl LP, Stereo, gatefold
Country: US
Released: 1961
Genre: Stage & Screen
Style: Musical
Net links:          
Barbara Cook ~       
      Stage work   
NPR ~ My First Memories Are Of Singing (audio interview)   
Variety obit         
Playbill obit   
Washington Post obit                     
LA Times obit   
YouTube links:          
Magic Moment (The Gay Life)     
Something You Never Had Before (The Gay Life)          
The Label On The Bottle     
Glitter and Be Gay (Candide)
Barbara Cook on Candide: Auditioning for Bernstein     
PBS ~ An Evening with Barbara Cook (54 min)  
Barbara Cook on The Dick Cavett Show, 1982 (28 min)  
photo by Mike Martin 
 I have absolutely no desire and no thought of quitting ever 
                                        ~ Barbara Cook  
Styrous® ~ Tuesday, August 9, 2017               

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