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Barbara Cook: Love Is Good For Anything That Ails You

The legendary singer's new show at the Café Carlyle is richly bittersweet.

By New York City
Barbara Cook
Barbara Cook
For her latest engagement at the Café Carlyle, Love Is Good For Anything That Ails You, the masterful Barbara Cook delivered an evening of love songs with charm, beauty, and an endearing sense of humor. The sense of fun also carries over into her patter. Her best story was really a digression about her first husband (whom she married in 1952). Because he was Jewish, they had both a rabbi and a priest marry them -- and she has had a Jewish name ever since: "Brucha." It means "blessing" and that is oh so fitting because we have been blessed to have her in our midst lo these many years.

The show takes its name from the light and breezy title song of a 1936 movie that Cook sings with swinging good humor. Among her other highlights is her opening number: "Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder, " in which Cook's pure soprano offers a brand new way to hear the song for those familiar with originator (and co-author) Al Jolson's brash delivery of the tune. The song also establishes the heady first throes of love, followed by the wonder of it all that she captures next in Rodgers & Hart's "Where or When." Soon thereafter comes some of her best songs, including the wonderfully retro "Cookin' Breakfast for the One I Love" (made famous by Fanny Brice) and the ultra-romantic "I Got Lost in His Arms" (from Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun).

Then came the flip side: heartbreak. Noting that she had wanted to sing John Bucchino's "If I Ever Say I'm Over You" for a long time, she launched into the tune with her finger on the pulse of its melancholy soul. Knowing that being miserable has its place in the world of love, Cook indulges in a long and exquisitely rendered series of songs that are devoted to emotional despair, including "Lover, Come Back to Me," "I'm Through With Love" and "Smile."

Finally, though, comes redemption in songs like Peter Allen's "Harbour," and most impressively "Hallelujah, I Love Him So." As always, like a special dessert dish, she ends her show with a song performed off-mike. It's a caramel sound that ends a richly bittersweet show.


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