Rediscover: Then & Now

Barbara Cook, the actress and singer who achieved fame on Broadway in the 1950s and later as a cabaret singer, died on August 8 at age 89. She performed lead roles in Plain and Fancy (1955), Candide (1956) and The Music Man (1957), which won Cook a Tony Award for her portrayal of Marian the Librarian. By the early 1970s, Cook's struggles with depression, alcoholism and obesity made it difficult for her to find acting work. The lyric soprano voice that had served Cook so well as a Broadway ingénue became darker as she grew older. In 1975, she began a collaboration with pianist and composer Wally Harper that lasted until his death in 2004. He convinced Cook to stage a solo concert at Carnegie Hall, which marked the beginning of her successful second act. Cook's vocal performance and song interpretations, especially of works by Stephen Sondheim, continued to earn accolades well into her 80s.

On June 21, 2016, Harper published Cook's memoir, Then & Now, co-authored by Tom Santopietro. The memoir explores Cook's tumultuous early life as the daughter of divorced parents whose only sister died of whooping cough. Cook also reveals the issues with alcohol and mental health that she overcome to launch her lauded second career. In 2016, Cook appeared on NPR's Fresh Air to discuss her book, an episode that re-airs today. The paperback of Then & Now was released on June 27, 2017 ($16.99, 9780062090478). --Tobias Mutter

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