New Year’s Eve Happenings

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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

Woman."

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

New Year’s Eve with Barbara Cook, State Theater,

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.

Top Of Page
New Year’s Eve Happenings

Food & Dining

Amalfi’s Cuisine, 146 Lawrenceville-Pennington Road,

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.

Baldassari Regency, 145 Morris Avenue, Trenton, 609-392-1280.

Dinner and dancing with Champagne toast and bottle of Asti Spumante.

Dancing to DJ. By reservation, $90. 7 p.m.

The Bog Restaurant and Pub, Cranbury Golf Club, 49 Southfield

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.

Cafe Classics Blues Club & Restaurant, 816 North Easton

Road, Doylestown, 215-489-3535. Dinner with music by Roy Roberts.

By reservation. 8 p.m.

Barry Friedman, Catch a Rising Star, Hyatt Regency,

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.

Doral Forrestal, 100 College Road East, 609-452-7800.

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.

Forsgate Country Club, 375 Forsgate Drive, Jamesburg,

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.

Trenton Marriott, Lafayette Yard, 609-656-4559. New Year’s

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.

Hopewell Bistro, 15 East Broad Street, Hopewell, 609-466-9889.

Dinner and dancing to jazz and Bossa Nova by Acme Music. Two seatings;

by reservation, $40 per person. 7 and 9:30 p.m.

Crystal Garden, Hyatt Regency, 102 Carnegie Center, 609-987-1234.

Four-course dinner from special menu, dancing and DJ, balloon drop

at midnight. By reservation, $130. 8 p.m.

Mediterra, Palmer Square North Plaza, 609-252-9680. Eight-course

dinner, open bar, dancing to the music of Arturo Romay and his band.

By reservation. $135. 8:30 p.m.

Romeo’s Restaurant, Plainsboro Plaza, 609-799-4554. Special

menu features chicken, seafood, veal, and pasta up to $22.95. Seatings

at 5, 7, 9 p.m. BYOB. 5 p.m.

Rusty Scupper, 378 Alexander Road, 609-921-3276. Special

menu includes filet mignon and lobster tail. Music by jazz trio and

Champagne toast at midnight. By reservation. 6 p.m.

Tap Room, Nassau Inn, 10 Palmer Square, 609-921-7500.

Prix fixe menu. By reservation, $50. 6 p.m.

Tre Piani Ristorante, Forrestal Village, 609-452-1515.

Cocktail hour, five-course dinner, Champagne toast, dancing to music

by Miracle. By reservation, $95. 6 p.m.

Singles

SingleFaces, Ramada Plaza, 3050 Woodbridge Avenue, Edison,

732-817-9292. New Year’s Eve dinner dance for singles 30s to 50s.

9 p.m.

Hot Spots

Diablo Sandwich Band, Havana, 105 South Main Street,

New Hope, 215-862-9897. 8 p.m.

Jazz, the Cornerstone, New and Pearl streets, Metuchen,

732-549-5306. Features the Danny Tobias and Allen Vache Quintet. 8

p.m.

Brookridge Boys, John & Peter’s, 96 South Main Street,

New Hope, 215-862-5981. New Year’s Eve Bash. 9 p.m.

Ron Kraemer & the Hurricanes, Pine Tavern, 199 Route

34, Matawan, 732-727-5060. Blues to ring in the New Year. 9 p.m.

Triumph Brewing, 138 Nassau Street, 609-924-7855. Bedbug

Eddie is back by popular demand playing classic covers. Dinner served

by reservation throughout the evening. $10 cover. 9:30 p.m.

Harvest Moon Brewery, 392 George Street, New Brunswick,

732-249-6666. Cover band rock music with Boolily, holiday menu, Champagne.

Reservation. 10 p.m.

KatManDu, Waterfront Park, Route 29, Trenton, 609-393-7300.

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.

Classical Music

Concert, Greater Trenton Symphony Orchestra, Patriots

Theater, War Memorial, Trenton, 609-396-5522. The 11th annual New

Year’s Eve concert features guest conductor Sabin Pautza. $30 to $65.

8 p.m.

Folk Music

New Year’s Eve Sing, Princeton Folk Music Society,

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.

8:30 p.m.

Pop Music

Creed, First Union Spectrum, Broad & Pattison, Philadelphia,

215-336-2000. New Year’s Eve show. $60 to $85. 7:30 p.m.

For Families

Family Night 2002, Spotted Hog, Peddler’s Village,

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.

Holiday Light Spectacular, PNC Bank Arts Center,

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.

Bonfire, Lawrence Historical Society, Meadow Lane,

Lawrenceville, 609-895-1728. Traditional Hogmanay Bonfire in the Great

Meadow. Hot chocolate served. 6 p.m.

Township of North Brunswick, Department of Human Services,

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

p.m.


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