Local singer, Billy Rea, got a public thank you for his flowers from Broadway legend, Barbara Cook, at the start of her first ever performance here and later returned the compliment by leading the audience in an impromptu chorus of Happy Birthday.
Birthday belle, Barbara, who is now an amazing 82, was among friends and could do no wrong during Saturday’s concert.
Despite her years, it was a joy to hear her beautiful voice used as a totally controlled and expressive instrument, complementing the lyrics to every song.
The Tony award-winner was right back to her roots as a late night cabaret club singer, with the emphasis more on jazz-influenced arrangements of both popular standards and musical theatre pieces than on the glitzy styles of Broadway (although her flamboyant sparkling robe could have outshone even Broadway!)
The gay icon may have made it to Belfast a year later than originally planned, but it was worth the wait, as — backed by her musical quartet — she performed a wide range of songs by Rodgers & Hammerstein, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and one of her favourite writers, Stephen Sondheim.
Highlights of her 80-minute set included Porter’s I’ve Got You Under My Skin, her nod to fellow Georgian, Ray Charles, all of her Sondheim interpretations and encore choice, What A Wonderful World. Indeed, what a wonderful lady.