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Roderick Cook; Created Revue, ‘Oh Coward!’

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Roderick Cook, the actor-singer who took a penetrating look at 40 of Sir Noel Coward’s most memorable melodies in the durable revue “Oh Coward!,” which he created and starred in throughout the 1970s and early ‘80s, has died at home in Los Angeles.

His business manager, Dan V. Fuller, told the New York Times that Cook, who most recently substituted here briefly in 1989 for Dom DeLuise in “Orpheus in the Underworld” at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, was 58 when he died, apparently of a heart attack.

Cook first staged “Oh Coward!” off-Broadway in 1970. His succinct and unsentimental overview of Sir Noel’s work brought him a Tony award nomination in 1987. At that time, his production had been seen in cities from London to Kuala Lumpur. It played the Ivar and Mark Taper Forum in 1973-74 in Los Angeles, was revived at the Mayfair Music Hall in 1981 and the Coronet in 1983.

Coward himself saw the staged resurrection of his bawdy women and droll men a few months before he died in 1973 and admitted that he had left the theater whistling his own melodies.

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Cook retired from the show after it was filmed as a television special in 1980, but continued to direct touring companies. He had created the stage characters and selected their music from the vast Coward repertoire after years of study of Sir Noel’s music, plays and performing career.

Like Coward, Cook was lean of figure, slight of voice and enjoyed a varied career. Born in England, where he graduated from Queen’s College, Cambridge, Cook later became an American citizen. He appeared in London West End musicals, Shakespearean repertory and British TV before coming to the United States in 1961 and making his Broadway debut in “Kean.” He also was seen on stage in “The Man Who Came to Dinner” and with Lauren Bacall in “Woman of the Year.”

He appeared in such films as “Amadeus,” “9 1/2 Weeks” and “Garbo Talks.”

Survivors include a stepfather in England.

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