Barbara Cook

Barbara Cook

Infobox Musical artist
Name = Barbara Cook

Img_capt = Barbara Cook in concert in 2004.
Img_size = 200px
Landscape =
Background = solo_singer
Born = birth date and age|1927|10|25
Origin = Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
Genre = Musical theatre, traditional pop
Occupation = Singer, actress
Years_active =1951–present
Label = Urania (1958–1959)
Columbia (1975–1977)
DRG (1993–present)
URL = []

Barbara Cook (born October 25 1927) is an American singer and actress who first came to prominence in the 1950s after creating roles in the Broadway musicals "Candide" and "The Music Man", among others. In the seventies, she began a second career that continues to this day as a cabaret and concert singer. Cook is widely recognized as one of the "premier interpreters" of musical theatre songs and standards, in particular the songs of composer Stephen Sondheim.cite news |last=Witchel |first=Alex |url=|title=Alone, Again |publisher=The New York Times |date=2005-04-17 |accessdate=2007-05-18 |format= reprint] In 1958, she won a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical for "The Music Man".


Cook was born in Atlanta, Georgia to Charles Bunyan, a traveling hat salesman, and Nell (Harwell) Cook, an operator for Southern Bell. [ [] ] Her parents divorced when she was a child and, after her only sister died of whooping cough, Barbara lived alone with her mother. She later described their relationship as "so close, too close. I slept with my mother until I came to New York. Slept in the same bed with her. That's just, it's wrong. But to me, it was the norm....As far as she was concerned, we were one person." Though Barbara began singing at an early age, at the Elks Club and to her father over the phone, she spent three years after graduating from high school working as a typist.

While visiting New York City in 1948 with her mother, Cook decided to stay and try to find work as an actress.cite news |last=Wallace |first=Mike |url= |title=Barbara Cook: Toast of Broadway |publisher=CBS News |date=2004-06-13 |accessdate=2007-05-18 ] She began to sing at clubs and resorts, eventually procuring an engagement at the Blue Angel club in 1950. She made her Broadway debut a year later, as Sandy in the short-lived 1951 musical "Flahooley". She landed another role quickly, portraying Ado Annie in the 1951 City Center revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Oklahoma!". She stayed with the production when it went on National tour the following year. Also in 1952, Cook made her first television appearance on the show "Armstrong Circle Theatre" which presented her in an original play entitled "Mr. Bemiss Takes a Trip". In 1954, Cook was cast in the short lived soap opera "Golden Windows" which ran for only a handful of episodes before being canceled. She also stared as Jane Piper in a television version of Victor Herbert's operetta "Babes in Toyland" and returned to City Center to portray Carrie Pipperidge in the revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Carousel". In 1955, she began to attract major critical praise when she played the supporting role of Hilda Miller in "Plain and Fancy". Cook's good reviews and clear soprano voice enabled her to win the role of Cunegonde in Leonard Bernstein's new musical "Candide" in 1956. She became famous for the show stopping song, "Glitter and Be Gay". That same year she appeared on television in a "Producers' Showcase" production of "Bloomer Girl" as Evelina Applegate. In 1957, she took the role of Julie Jordan in the yet another City Center revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Carousel" and portrayed Elsie Maynard in a television version of "The Yeomen of the Guard" as part of the Hallmark Hall of Fame series. Other television credits for Cook during this time of her career include appearances on "Alfred Hitchcock Presents", "The Perry Como Show", "The Ed Sullivan Show", "The Dinah Shore Chevy Show", "The United States Steel Hour", "Play of the Week", and a musical version of "Hansel and Gretel".

Although "Candide" was not a success, Cook's portrayal of Cunegonde established her as one of Broadway's leading ingenues. Her two most famous roles after this were Marian the Librarian in Meredith Willson's 1957 hit "The Music Man" and as Amalia Balash in the 1962 Jerry Bock-Sheldon Harnick musical "She Loves Me". The song "Ice Cream" from the latter became one of Cook's signature songs.

Cook married acting teacher David LeGrant on March 9 1952. They had one child, Adam, in 1959, and were divorced in 1965.

During the 1960s, Cook created roles in some less successful musicals: Liesl Brandel in "The Gay Life" (1961) and Carol Deems in "Something More!" (1964). She did, however, make a well received portrayal of Anna Leonowens in Rodgers and Hammerstein's "The King and I" in 1960 and an acclaimed portrayal of Magnolia in "Show Boat" in 1966, both revivals at City Center. Cook also recorded the role of Anna in a 1964 studio recording with Theodore Bikel as the King. She starred in two National tours during the 1960s, Molly Brown in "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" in 1964 and Fanny Brice in "Funny Girl" in 1967. [ [] ] Cook also tried her hand at non-musical roles, replacing Sandy Dennis in the play "Any Wednesday" and originating the role of Patsy Newquist in Jules Feiffer's "Little Murders". Her last original musical role on Broadway came in 1971 when she played Dolly Talbo in "The Grass Harp". In 1972, she returned to the dramatic stage in the Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Center's production of Gorky's "Enemies". As she began struggling with depression, obesity, and alcoholism in the seventies (she eventually quit drinking in 1977), Cook began finding trouble getting stage work.

In the mid 1970s Cook's fortunes changed for the better when she met and befriended composer and pianist Wally Harper. Harper convinced her to put together a concert and on January 26, 1975, accompanied by Harper, she made her debut in a legendary solo concert at Carnegie Hall that resulted in a highly successful live album. Continuing a collaboration with Harper that lasted until his death in 2004, Cook became a successful concert performer. Over the next three decades, the two performed together at not only many of the best cabaret spots and music halls like Michael's Pub and the St. Regis Hotel in New York City but nationally and internationally. Cook and Harper returned to Carnegie Hall in September 1980, to perform a series of songs arranged by Harper. The performance was captured on the CD "It's Better With a Band". In 1986, Cook was nominated for an Olivier Award for her one-woman show, accompanied by Harper, at London's Albery Theatre. She won a Drama Desk Award in 1987 for her Broadway show "A Concert for the Theatre", again with Harper. In October 1991 they appeared as featured artists at the Carnegie Hall Gala "Music and Remembrance: A Celebration of Great Musical Partnerships" which raised money for the advancement of the performing arts and for AIDS research. In 1994, they performed a critically acclaimed performance at the Sadler's Wells Theatre in London. Alistair Macauley wrote in the "Financial Times" about the concert, "Barbara Cook is the greatest singer in the world... Ms. Cook is the only popular singer active today who should be taken seriously by lovers of classical music. Has any singer since Callas matched Cook's sense of musical architecture? I doubt it." The performing duo traveled all over the world giving concerts together including a number of times at the White House - for Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton.

From the mid 1970s on, Cook returned only sporadically to acting, mostly in occasional studio cast and live concert versions of stage musicals. In September 1985 she appeared with the New York Philharmonic as Sally in the renowned concert version of Stephen Sondheim's "Follies". In 1986, she recorded the role of Martha in the Sharon Burgett musical version of "The Secret Garden" along with John Cullum, Judy Kaye, and George Rose. In 1987 she performed the role of Julie Jordan in a concert version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Carousel" with Samuel Ramey as Billy, Sarah Brightman as Carrie, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1988 she originated the role of Margaret White in the notorious musical version of Stephen King's "Carrie - The Musical" which premiered in England and was presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company. In 1994 she provided both her acting and singing skills to the animated film version of "Thumbelina" which featured music by Barry Manilow. That same year she was inducted into the Broadway Hall of Fame. In 2000 she was joined by Lillias White, Malcolm Gets, and Debbie Gravitte on the studio cast recording of Jimmy McHugh's "Lucky in the Rain".

In 1997, Cook celebrated her 70th birthday by giving a concert at Albert Hall in London with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2000, she was one of the only American performers chosen to perform at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Arts Festival in the fabled Sydney Opera House.

In February 2001, Cook returned to Carnegie Hall to perform "Sings Mostly Sondheim" which was recorded live and released on CD. Critically acclaimed from the start, Cook took the concert to London's West End where it was the smash hit during London's 2001 summer season. She garnered two Olivier Award nominations for Best Entertainment and Best Actress in a Musical for the concert. She went on to perform "Sings Mostly Sondheim" at Lincoln Center for a sold-out fourteen week run, winning a Tony Award nomination for Best Theatrical Event, and then took the show on a National tour throughout major cities in the United States. DRG filmed the stage production and it was released on DVD on the DRG/Koch Entertainment label. "Sings Mostly Sondheim" was the last major project that Wally Harper and Cook worked on together.

After Harper's death in 2004, Cook made the painful adjustment to new accompanists in solo shows like "Tribute" (a reference to Harper) and "No One Is Alone" that continued to receive acclaim; "The New York Times" exclaimed in 2005 that she was "at the top of her game....Cook's voice is remarkably unchanged from 1958, when she won the Tony Award for playing Marian the Librarian in "The Music Man." A few high notes aside, it is, eerily, as rich and clear as ever."

In January 2006, Cook became the first female pop singer to be presented by the Metropolitan Opera in the company's more than one hundred year history. She presented a solo concert of Broadway show tunes and classic jazz standards, and was supported on a few numbers by guest singers Audra McDonald and Josh Groban. The concert was recorded and subsequently released on CD. On June 25th 2006, Cook was the special guest star of the Award Winning Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, D.C., celebrating GMCW's Silver Anniversary in a performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC.

Cook was the featured artist at the "Arts! by George" gala on September 29, 2007 at the Fairfax campus of George Mason University. [ [ Arts! by George] ] On October 22, 2007, Cook sang at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts (Fort Lauderdale, FL) with the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men's Chorus in the chorus's concert entitled "An Evening With Barbara Cook". Upon completion of the concert, an almost full house greeted her with a round of "Happy Birthday" in honor of her impending 80th birthday. On December 2, 2007, Cook celebrated her birthday in the UK with a concert at the home of English National Opera - The Coliseum Theatre, in London's West End.

Most notably as she entered her ninth decade, she performed in two sold-out concerts with the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center. The New York Times's reviewer threw his hat in the air, writing of Miss Cook as "a performer spreading the gospel of simplicity, self-reliance and truth" who is "never glib" and summoning adjectives such as "astonishing" and "transcendent," concluding that she sings with "a tenderness and honesty that could break your heart and mend it all at once." [ [ New York Times 2007] ]

In June 2008, Cook appeared in "Strictly Gershwin" at the Royal Albert Hall in London, England with the full company of English National Ballet. She is scheduled to appear with the Ulster Orchestra as the Closing Concert of this year's Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen's at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast on 31st October 2008.


* "Songs of Perfect Propriety" (1958)
* "Sings From the Heart: Memorable Songs of Rodgers & Hart" (1959)
* "At Carnegie Hall" (1975)
* "As Of Today" (1977)
* "It's Better With a Band" (1981)
* "The Disney Album" (1988)
* "Dorothy Fields: Close as Pages in a Book" (1993)
* "Live from London" (1994)
* "Oscar Winners: The Lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II" (1997)
* "All I Ask of You" (1999)
* "The Champion Season: A Salute to Gower Champion" (1999)
* "Sings Mostly Sondheim: Live at Carnegie Hall" (2001)
* "Count Your Blessings" (2003)—Grammy Award nominee (Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album)
* "Barbara Cook's Broadway!" (2004)
* "Tribute" (2005)
* "Barbara Cook at The Met" (2006)
* "No One Is Alone" (2007)

Cast and studio cast recordings
* "Flahooley" (1951)
* "Plain and Fancy" (1955)
* "Candide" (1956)
* "The Music Man" (1957)—Grammy Award winner (Best Original Cast Album)
* "Hansel and Gretel" (1958)
* "The Gay Life" (1961)
* "Show Boat" (Studio Cast, 1962)
* "She Loves Me" (1963)—Grammy Award winner (Best Score From An Original Cast Show Album)
* "The King and I" (1964)
* "Show Boat" (Lincoln Center Cast, 1966)
* "The Grass Harp" (1971)
* "Follies in Concert" (1985)
* "The Secret Garden" (World Premiere Recording, 1986)
* "Carousel" (1987)
* "The King and I: 50th Year" (1993)
* "Lucky in the Rain" (2000)
* "The Grass Grows Green" (1972)
* "Thumbelina Soundtrack" (1994)Compilations
* "The Broadway Years: Till There Was You" (1995)
* "Legends of Broadway—Barbara Cook" (2006)


External links

* [ The Official Barbara Cook Online Resource]
* [ Cook at IMDB]
* [ Barbara Cook] - "Downstage Center" interview at American Theatre
* [ Interview with Barbara Cook]
* [ -Barbara Cook]

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