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'Glitter' celebrates a sparkling career

May 05, 2003|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

There was a period, in the '50s and '60s, when Barbara Cook's name was at the top of the list whenever a casting call went out for an ingenue in a Broadway musical. From the role of Hilda in "Plain and Fancy" to the defining role of Marian the Librarian in "The Music Man," Cook's feathery light soprano became one of the theater's defining musical sounds.

Cook's Broadway theatrical career -- as well as the numerous recordings chronicling the songs of (among others) Stephen Sondheim, Irving Berlin and Rodgers and Hart -- was celebrated Friday night in "Glitter and Be Gay" at the El Portal/Circle theater in North Hollywood.

The program featured the singing of Victoria Lavan, another soprano with facile, high-soaring vocal qualities. Accompanied by pianist Tom Shell, Lavan offered a far-ranging program encompassing numerous songs from Cook's 1975 Carnegie Hall album, Sondheim's "Passion" and a medley of Leonard Bernstein pieces. Lavan's spare but focused presentation emphasized the songs, with brief narrative segments outlining the high points in Cook's career.

The interpretations were generally warm and lyrical, with Lavan tending to follow in the path of Cook's clear, uncluttered way with a song. But the similarities ended when it came time to convey the real meaning of a song. Cook knew (and knows) that songs are stories, especially in musical theater. And while Lavan's fundamental vocal skills were generally first-rate, her capacity to define characters and tell their story via a song was considerably less convincing. She deserves credit, nonetheless, for the generous act of devoting an evening to the work of another soprano. And if Lavan -- once past opening night -- can find a way to penetrate to the heart of the songs, her affection for Barbara Cook will reach its fullest degree of expression.


Victoria Lavan

What: Victoria Lavan in "Glitter and Be Gay: A Tribute to Barbara Cook"

Where: The Circle Theatre in the El Portal Theatre Center, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.

When: Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m. Sunday, 2 p.m.; then on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. only through May 31

Price: $20

Contact: (866) 562-8425

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