George Cook as the Sergeant of Police in The Pirates of Penzance

George Cook (1954-69)

[Born Coventry 28 May 1925, died April 1995]

Upon his discharge from the Royal Navy at the close of World War II, George Cook joined an amateur operatic society in his native Coventry. Encouraged by his success, he soon left for London and vocal training under Henry Cummings and Arthur Reckless.

Cook joined the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company chorus in February 1954.He assumed the role of Bob Beckett in H.M.S. Pinafore in April of that year, and for a time during his first season may have appeared on occasion as Go-To in The Mikado.For the 1954-55 season Cook appeared only as Bob Beckett and, from April 1955 forward, as the Associate in Trial by Jury.

From March or April 1956 he shared the roles of Sergeant Bouncer in Cox and Box, the Usher in Trial by Jury, Bill Bobstay in H.M.S. Pinafore, and Samuel in The Pirates of Penzance with Trevor Hills.When he wasn't singing the Usher or Bobstay, he played the Associate in Trial and Bob Beckett in Pinafore.

In May 1956 he assumed Bouncer, the Usher, Bobstay, Samuel, and Giorgio in The Gondoliers on a full-time basis, while also serving as understudy to Arthur Richards (and, later, Kenneth Sandford) in his principal roles. When Princess Ida was revived in October 1957, Cook added the role of Scynthius, and in March 1962 took over as Go-To in The Mikado.He had given up Sergeant Bouncer at the start of the 1961-62 season, and yielded Giorgio later that year.

In August 1962, George Cook took over the part of the Sergeant of Police from Kenneth Sandford, who had never been comfortable with it.So in September 1963, when Ruddigore was restored to the repertoire, and Cook added Old Adam Goodheart to his duties, his regular parts were the Usher, Bill Bobstay, the Sergeant of Police, Scynthius, Go-To, and Old Adam. He played these parts till the end of his career, also reclaiming Giorgio in 1965 and Bouncer in 1967.Cook left the D'Oyly Carte in August 1969.

He also deputized for Sandford on numerous occasions between 1956 and 1969 in most of the latter's principal roles:the Sergeant of Police in The Pirates of Penzance (until 1962 when it became Cook's), Private Willis in Iolanthe, King Hildebrand in Princess Ida, Pooh-Bah in The Mikado, Sir Despard Murgatroyd in Ruddigore, Wilfred Shadbolt in The Yeomen of the Guard, and Don Alhambra in The Gondoliers, and filled in on at least one occasion for Anthony Raffell as Sergeant Bouncer in 1964.

George Cook may be heard on the 1960 D'Oyly Carte recording of H.M.S. Pinafore (as Bill Bobstay), the 1961 Gondoliers (as Giorgio), the 1965 Princess Ida (as Scynthius), and the 1968 Pirates (as Samuel).He is also Go-To in the 1966 D'Oyly Carte film of The Mikado, and provides the voice of Old Adam in the 1967 Halas and Batchelor cartoon of Ruddigore.

He was married to D'Oyly Carte chorister, Marian Martin.Among George Cook's varied interests was the fabrication of Japanese-style fans.These he supplied to the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company for their productions of The Mikado, as well as to amateur G&S societies throughout the United Kingdom and beyond.

Page modified December 22, 2003 © 2001-03 David Stone