Courtney Cook: Where I’m Supposed to Be—A Journey in Song

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Courtney Cook

Where I’m Supposed to Be—A Journey in Song

Tom Rolla’s Gardenia, West Hollywood, CA, April 13, 2019

Reviewed by Elliot Zwiebach for Cabaret Scenes

Courtney Cook

Courtney Cook has found her joy, and she sure knows how to share it.

The message in her autobiographical show was that she’s decided to forsake her lifelong search for perfection in favor of finding the joy in what she’s doing—and she used her powerful voice and strong acting chops to share that journey with an eager audience.

Eschewing a formal entrance, Cook walked into the room shortly before show time, greeting and clinking glasses with audience members, then leaning up against the bar before Terry Cole, the light-and-sound operator, came up to tell her it was time to start the show.

She sauntered over to the microphone and immediately showed off her strong pipes and her ability to sustain big notes with a powerful rendition of  “Dreaming” (Chris Stein/Deborah Harry), backed by a talented four-piece band: Bradley Young on piano, Dori Amarillo on guitar, Adrian Rosen on bass, and Jon Stuart on drums. She followed with a soft, solid take on “To Sir with Love” (Don Black/Mark London).

Tracing her roots to Alabama before she moved to New York, Cook offered a medley that combined a sweet, dreamy “Stars Fell on Alabama” (Frank Perkins/Mitchell Parish) with a deeply expressive take on Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind.

Cook is a powerful ballad singer and storyteller, which she demonstrated over and over, particularly on one of the evening’s highlights: a gentle, delicate “My Childhood” (Jacques Brel/English lyrics by Mort Shuman and Eric Blau) that demonstrated her broad vocal range and her nuanced ability to interpret a lyric. She was accompanied solely by Young on piano—a nice touch that enhanced the beauty of the moment.

She also sang an absolutely poignant, tender “Oh, How I Loved You” (Marcy Heisler/Zina Goldrich)—again accompanied solely by Young, a thrilling, deeply resonant “Come Rain or Come Shine” (Harold Arlen/Johnny Mercer), and a gorgeous, confident “Cry Me a River” (Arthur Hamilton).

Switching gears, Cook was all high-energy country on the very up-tempo “Mama’s Broken Heart” (Brandy Lynn Clark/Shane McAnally/Lacey Musgraves), and she had fun turning “Eye of the Tiger” (Jim Peterik/Frankie Sullivan) from a disco anthem to a bluesy swing number.


Moving into jazz, she offered a breathy, plaintive version of Bart Howard’s “Fly Me to the Moon,” with delicate solo accompaniment by Amarillo on guitar, before throwing herself completely into a joyous “L-O-V-E” (Bert Kaempfert/Milt Gabler) during which she gave each of her musicians moments to shine on extended solos.

Elliot Zwiebach

Elliot Zwiebach loves the music of The Great American Songbook and classic Broadway, with a special affinity for Rodgers and Hammerstein. He's been a professional writer for 45 years and a cabaret reviewer for five. Based in Los Angeles, Zwiebach has been exposed to some of the most talented performers in cabaret—the famous and the not-so-famous—and enjoys it all. Reviewing cabaret has even pushed him into doing some singing of his own — a very fun and liberating experience that gives him a connection with the performers he reviews.