Barbara Cook, the Tony-winning Broadway star who originated the role of Marian in The Music Man, died Tuesday at 89, the AP confirms. The cause was respiratory failure.
The early days of Cook’s career were marked by Broadway success, as the soprano was best known for playing the aforementioned Marian the librarian in 1957 — for which she won the Best Actress Tony Award in 1958, Cunegonde in 1956’s Candide, and Amalia Balash in 1963’s She Loves Me (a role adopted by Laura Benanti in the recent revival). Fittingly, the AP reports that Cook’s last meal was vanilla ice cream — which is also the title of one of Amalia’s standout numbers in the musical.
Later, though, Cook battled alcoholism and weight problems and had trouble finding work. But in 1975, she performed a comeback concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City, which reinvigorated her career. From then on, Cook’s concerts were known for her deft interpretation of lyrics and the operatic quality and techniques of her voice. She also imbued the shows with autobiographical elements and emotions and often performed show-stopping final numbers sans microphone.
In addition to her 1958 Best Actress Tony, Cook was nominated for two others in 2002 and 2010. As The Washington Post notes, Stephen Sondheim told the paper in 2002, “No one sings theater songs with more feeling for the music or more understanding of the lyrics than Barbara.”
In the words of Marian’s “Goodnight, My Someone”: “Sweet dreams be yours, dear.”