Here, Barbara Cook, despite having never previously appeared in any Sondheim production but the concert version of Follies, shows her massive affinity and admiration for the man by offering one of the greatest showcases his work has ever received. Approximately half of this concert’s contents are taken from Sondheim’s actual body of work; the other half are drawn from Sondheim’s “Songs I wish I’d written” list.
She opens the program with the thrilling “Everybody Says Don’t” from Anyone Can Whistle, and concludes in with a heartwrenching rendition of that show’s title-song. In between, she offers some relative rarities of the Sondheim canon, including the ecstatic “Happiness” and the searing “Loving You” from the underrated Passion, mixed with several old standbys such as “You Could Drive a Person Crazy”, “Not a Day Goes By”, and “Send In the Clowns”.
She even offers a new rendition of her own signature Sondheim tune, “Losing My Mind”, and actually surpasses the lovely but dramatically tepid version on her famous Follies recording. Also on the recording is another of her signature songs, Bock and Harnick’s “Ice Cream”, and it shows off how amazingly well her voice has held up over the years, still hitting the same fabulous climactic high note she originally did back in 1964.
As Sondheim’s ‘list’ seemed to have a great deal of Harold Arlen on it, she offers several impressive renditions of Arlen’s material, including a ruefully funny “Buds Won’t Bud”, an exquisitely stylized “I Had Myself a True Love”, and an explosively intense “The Eagle and Me”.
Cook’s only support here is her longtime accompanist Wally Harper and the talented Malcolm Gets, who serves as her duet partner several times (most memorably on “Not While I’m Around”), and is allowed to take the stage for a few complete solos. Cook hadn’t missed a beat by this point (nor has she done so to this day, for that matter), and the audio and DVD recordings of this extraordinary showcase are essential resources for any true Broadway fan.