As the theatre community mourns the death of storied songstress Barbara Cook, who passed away August 8, 2017 at the age of 89, Playbill looks back at the technical dexterity and natural beauty of the soprano’s voice. She made her Broadway debut in 1951 in Flahooley and earned her first Tony nomination (and took home the award) for the original production of The Music Man.
Seth Rudetsky deconstructed her rendition of “My White Knight,” sung by Cook, from the Meredith Willson musical. Rudetsky counts it as his favorite love song and breaks down Cook’s brilliant performance in the video below:
In the video Rudetsky admits, “I’m not a big fan of sopranos, however there is someone I like. ... Barbara’s voice is called ‘I just have the most stunning God-given tone to my voice and now I will add vibrato.’” At the time of this deconstruction, Cook was performing in 2010’s Sondheim on Sondheim, for which she earned a Tony nomination.
Just a few weeks later, Rudetsky revisited Cook’s work. This time, he dissected Cook’s performance of “Quiet” in Hal Prince’s Candide. (The emphasis on Cook begins at 4:20):
His deconstructions of Candide and Cook didn’t stop there. In this final video, Rudetsky admires Cook’s riffs (yes, riff) and tonality: