Cabaret faithful and longtime Barbara Cook aficionados sold out the first of her RRazz Room performances and were treated to more than they could have anticipated. Cook, at the tender age of 84, is still exploring and redefining herself, and having ball doing it. Dan Hicks’s humorous swing “I Don’t Want Love” shows a greatly confident artist willing to forsake her comfort zone and courageously step into unchartered territory. Brava. The Hicks’s song, Cole Porter’s “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall in Love)” and the Billie Holiday hit “Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be?)” were challenges accepted and delivered with charm and style. Years of experience allow Cook to maneuver through any material. The voice may be a little frailer, but the presence this woman commands is undeniably endearing and enduring.
Explaining how she chose songs she never would have imagined performing, Cook let us in on her creative thought process, which includes her addiction to YouTube musical clips. She is moving forward while keeping one foot anchored in the glorious music of Harold Arlen/Ted Koehler (“Let’s Fall in Love”), Hoagy Carmichael/Ned Washington (“The Nearness of You”) and Ray Henderson/Mort Dixon (“Bye Bye Blackbird”). Her wistful, yet encouraging “Here’s to Life” seemed to be the sum of a career and life well lived. You could hear a pin drop during her encore of John Lennon’s poignant “Imagine” (sans mic), after which she basked in a well-deserved standing ovation.
August 21, 2012