Corrections or additions?
This article by Simon Saltzman was prepared for the December 18, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Singing in the New Year
I can’t think of any performer that I would rather
celebrate New Year’s Eve with than musical theater legend Barbara
Cook. The singer will be appearing at New Brunswick’s State Theater
in a concert of "Mostly Sondheim" on Tuesday, December 31,
at 8 p.m.
Cook was inspired to draw her concert’s musical selections from those
suggested by Frank Rich in a New York Times Magazine article about
Stephen Sondheim. In it, the composer talked about songs that he wished
that he had written. She has made his list the centerpiece of a program
that recently concluded an extended run at Lincoln Center and has
been touring for the past two years. As this is the same show that
I caught at the McCarter Theater on November 7, I would like to commend
to you a great performance by a not-to-be-missed entertainer.
Accompanied by Wally Harper, her piano accompanist and musical arranger,
and the fine bassist Jon Burr, Cook, by virtue of her luscious soprano
voice, is spinning silvery and golden threads around songs by Sondheim
and others. About Sondheim, Cook says "Like Picasso’s art in the
first half of the century, Sondheim is the seminal force in theater
music in the second half of the century." Considering the emotional
range Cook encompasses, she could also be said to be singing those
songs that most deeply affect her. This is not to imply that she over
emotes, but rather how meaningfully she mines the subtext and sensitivities
of each song.
The admired award-winning star of such shows as "The Music Man,"
Leonard Bernstein’s "Candide," and Bock and Harnick’s "She
Loves Me," has moved so gracefully and gloriously past the image
of ingenue that her recent years as cabaret and concert artist seem
almost the high point of an impressive career that is still going
higher. If she really has to think (as she confesses on stage) of
opera diva Kiri TeKanawa before she attempts the B-natural in her
signature song "Ice Cream" from "She Loves Me," her
thoughts go much deeper when she reveals the poignancy and pain of
unrequited love in an ecstatic pair of Sondheim arias from "Passion."
And a medley of "Not a Day Goes By," from "Merrily We
Roll Along," and "Losing My Mind" from "Follies"
is almost more rapture than one can bear.
Cook has included in the mix enough bouncy and sassy
songs to keep the 90-minute (no intermission) concert bubbling. The
witty and dizzyingly modern patter of Sondheim’s "You Could Drive
a Person Crazy" from "Company" flow as breezily from this
artful interpreter as do the familiar sing-a-long-ish lyrics of such
old war-horses as "Waiting For The Robert E. Lee," "Hard
Hearted Hannah," and "San Francisco." If a romantic peak
was reached it was with Irving Berlin’s "I Got Lost In His Arms"
from "Annie Get Your Gun." But my personal favorite was the
bluesy Harold Arlen medley "The Eagle and Me," from "Bloomer
Girl," and "I Had Myself A True Love" from "St. Louis
Cook finds a lost jewel of a ballad in "So Many People," a
song written by Sondheim when he was only 21 for an un-produced show
"Saturday Night." She gets what she calls "my Sinatra
moment" singing a swinging "When in Rome" by Cy Coleman
and Caroline Leigh and her Garland moment with "The Trolley Song."
Living legends don’t go on forever. So take this opportunity before
the "Ice Cream" melts to enjoy this phenomenal entertainer
at the State Theater on New Years Eve. Living legends don’t go on
forever, but at 75 and in excellent voice, Cook sounds like she might
be good for another quarter of a century.
I had the pleasure of a telephone chat with Cook, whose Tony award
for playing Marion the librarian in "The Music Man" may be
credited with starting a love affair with musical theater fans that
has lasted over 50 years. I asked Cook, an Atlanta native who has
never appeared in a Sondheim show, not counting a concert version
of "Follies," how she approached his music. "I don’t approach
the music with the idea to sound pretty but from a dramatic and theatrical
point of view. I try to live inside of the song." At this time
of her life, which she admits is like living "a second career,"
Cook also says that she didn’t have to reinvent herself to be concert
artist when theater roles became scarce.
"I always sang intimately. The first job I had in New York was
at a little club, the Blue Angel. So, for me, it is not a big jump
to the concert stage," she says.
Both critics and fans have determined that Cook does appear to have
a depth of understanding of Sondheim’s masterful but emotionally demanding
lyrics that often defy a casual singer’s capability. If the composer
has an unfounded reputation for being a high brow and intellectual
composer, his canon reveals just as many lush and romantic songs as
there are clever ones. "I have a path and journey I set out to
take with each song and think of them as scenes."
What other composer ranks as high, I ask. "I love the utter simplicity
of Irving Berlin," she says also allowing how Arlen and the others
wrote "good stuff." Help making that good stuff better is
Cook’s accompanist Harper, about whom Cook says, "I don’t know
what I’d do without him. Come February he’ll be with me for 29 years."
Would Cook return to the stage in a book musical? It doesn’t take
her long to suggest that someone might write a musical version of
"Come Back Little Sheba" for her. Until that happens, Cook
has only to keep coming back herself.
— Simon Saltzman
15 Livingston Avenue, New Brunswick, 877-782-8311. Broadway singer
Barbara Cook and her "Mostly Sondheim" show. $25 to $60. Tuesday,
December 31, 8 p.m.
After the show, there will be cocktails, buffet dinner, dancing, and
music on the State Theater stage. Black tie optional. $175 for ticket
holders. For reservations, call 732-247-7200, ext. 512.
Food & Dining
Lawrenceville, 609-912-1599. Special menu, open bar, music
by Rick Fiori Band, Champagne toast at midnight, noisemakers, and
wake-up Danish at 1 a.m. By reservation, $90. 9 p.m.
Dinner and dancing with Champagne toast and bottle of Asti Spumante.
Dancing to DJ. By reservation, $90. 7 p.m.
Road, West Windsor, 609-799-2715. Hors d’oeuvres, special menu, party
favors, Champagne toast, dancing to music by Larry "D." Coffee
and Danish after midnight. By reservation, $95. 7 p.m.
Road, Doylestown, 215-489-3535. Dinner with music by Roy Roberts.
By reservation. 8 p.m.
102 Carnegie Center, 609-987-8018. Four-course dinner at the Crystal
Garden, Champagne toast, party favors, dancing, and comedy by Barry
Friedman. By reservation, $155. 8 p.m.
Prix-fixe menu in Gratella Restaurant, $65 per person. Gala Ball in
Alexander Ballroom from 8 p.m. to 1 am. includes dinner, open bar,
Champagne toast, continental breakfast, and entertainment by Fortune.
By reservation, $249. With overnight accommodations, $399. 6 p.m.
732-656-8912. Celebration with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, open bar,
Champagne toast, and four-course dinner. Starlyte Music, a seven-piece
band led by Terri and Steve Gutkin, features music from the 1940s
to the present. Reservation, $250. 8 p.m.
Eve gala with cocktails, four-course dinner, Champagne toast at midnight,
breakfast for two. Dinner only, $125 per person. With overnight accommodations,
$359 per couple. 6 p.m.
Dinner and dancing to jazz and Bossa Nova by Acme Music. Two seatings;
by reservation, $40 per person. 7 and 9:30 p.m.
Four-course dinner from special menu, dancing and DJ, balloon drop
at midnight. By reservation, $130. 8 p.m.
dinner, open bar, dancing to the music of Arturo Romay and his band.
By reservation. $135. 8:30 p.m.
menu features chicken, seafood, veal, and pasta up to $22.95. Seatings
at 5, 7, 9 p.m. BYOB. 5 p.m.
menu includes filet mignon and lobster tail. Music by jazz trio and
Champagne toast at midnight. By reservation. 6 p.m.
Prix fixe menu. By reservation, $50. 6 p.m.
Cocktail hour, five-course dinner, Champagne toast, dancing to music
by Miracle. By reservation, $95. 6 p.m.
732-817-9292. New Year’s Eve dinner dance for singles 30s to 50s.
New Hope, 215-862-9897. 8 p.m.
732-549-5306. Features the Danny Tobias and Allen Vache Quintet. 8
New Hope, 215-862-5981. New Year’s Eve Bash. 9 p.m.
34, Matawan, 732-727-5060. Blues to ring in the New Year. 9 p.m.
Eddie is back by popular demand playing classic covers. Dinner served
by reservation throughout the evening. $10 cover. 9:30 p.m.
732-249-6666. Cover band rock music with Boolily, holiday menu, Champagne.
Reservation. 10 p.m.
El Ka Bong is the featured band with an audience-friendly stage. Party
package includes buffet and open bar until 1 a.m. By reservation,
$60. 10 p.m.
Theater, War Memorial, Trenton, 609-396-5522. The 11th annual New
Year’s Eve concert features guest conductor Sabin Pautza. $30 to $65.
Private home, Grovers Mill, 609-799-0944. In a decade-long tradition,
members greet the New Year with song and midnight supper. Bring guitar
and pot-luck dish. Call for membership information and directions.
215-336-2000. New Year’s Eve show. $60 to $85. 7:30 p.m.
Route 202, Lahaska, 215-794-4000. Entertainment includes music, balloon
sculptures, face painting, and a clown. $18.95; $16. 95 children.
Register. 4 p.m.
Holmdel, 732-335-8698. Open New Year’s Eve, the park full of holiday
light displays lit by over 1 million lights, viewed during a two-mile
drive in your own car. Benefit for local charities. $10 per car; $30
per van. 5 p.m.
Lawrenceville, 609-895-1728. Traditional Hogmanay Bonfire in the Great
Meadow. Hot chocolate served. 6 p.m.
North Brunswick High School, 732-247-0922. Non-alcoholic family festivities
with shows, refreshments, noisemakers, and a balloon drop at midnight.
Also MTV room for teens, puppet show, Mr. Mad Science mechanical surfboard,
wall climbing, and a DJ. $12 individual; $40 family of four. 8
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.