Barbara Cook’s silvery soprano, purity of tone, and warm presence have delighted audiences around the world for more than 50 years. Considered “Broadway’s favorite ingenue” during the heyday of the Broadway musical, Miss Cook then launched a second career as a concert and recording artist soaring from one professional peak to another.
Whether on the stages of major international venues throughout the world or in the intimate setting of New York’s Café Carlyle or Feinstein’s at the Regency, Barbara Cook’s popularity continues to thrive - as evidenced by her 1997 birthday concert with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Albert Hall in London, a succession of 6 triumphant returns to Carnegie Hall where she made a legendary solo concert debut in 1975 , and an ever-growing mantle of honors including the Tony, Grammy, Drama Desk and New York Drama Critics Circle Awards, her citation as a Living New York Landmark and her induction into the Theatre Hall of Fame.
The recipient of a 2011 Kennedy Center Honors, the season before last Miss Cook returned to the Broadway stage after a 23-year absence, and was nominated for a Tony Award for her performance, in the musical Sondheim on Sondheim, directed by James Lapine, for the Roundabout Theater Company.
In November 2007 Miss Cook achieved yet another career high when she celebrated her 80th birthday in concert with the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall. Due to popular demand two encore performances of the critically acclaimed concert played to sold-out houses. In January 2006 Miss Cook made her solo concert debut at the Metropolitan Opera Company, making her the first female pop singer to be presented by the MET in the company’s 123 year history. The sold-out event was recorded and released as a live performance cd by DRG Records.
In 2004 Miss Cook’s concert, Barbara Cook’s Broadway, was hailed by both the Associated Press and USA TODAY as one of the ten best theatre productions of the year. USA Today noted that “Barbara Cook is singing as gloriously as ever in her latest one-woman show,” adding that “this septuagenarian’s combination of gorgeous technique and emotional insight is nothing short of miraculous.” The Associated Press called Barbara Cook’s Broadway “the most satisfying musical-theater experience of the year. At 77 and still in marvelous voice, she has earned the right to be called legendary.”
Following the spring 2004 Lincoln Center Theater run, Miss Cook premiered Barbara Cook’s Broadway in London’s West End in May, returned to perform the show for two sold-out encore engagements at Lincoln Center that summer, before returning to London with the show for a second time in September. The concert was recorded live and released on DRG Records.
Barbara Cook’s Broadway followed close on the heels of her earlier triumph, the critically acclaimed Barbara Cook in Mostly Sondheim. Miss Cook premiered the concert at Carnegie Hall in February 2001 before taking it to London’s West End where it was the smash hit of London’s 2001 summer season, eventually garnering Miss Cook two Olivier Award nominations for Best Entertainment and Best Actress in a Musical. She went on to perform Mostly Sondheim at Lincoln Center Theater for a sold-out fourteen week run, winning a Tony Award nomination for Best Theatrical Event, and has performed the show in major cities throughout the United States. DRG released a live performance CD of the Carnegie Hall performance before filming a stage performance, which was released as a DVD/Home Video recording on DRG/Koch Entertainment.
“Barbara Cook is the greatest singer in the world,” wrote the Financial Times’ Alistair Macauley in 1994 after her performance at the Sadlers’ Wells Theatre in London. “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.”
A native of Atlanta, Barbara Cook made her Broadway debut in 1951 as the ingenue lead in the musical Flahooley. She subsequently played Ado Annie in the City Center revival of Oklahoma!, followed by a national tour of that hit show. In 1954 her performance as Carrie Pipperidge in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel led to the role of Hilda Miller in the original production of Plain and Fancy. Ms. Cook went on to create the role of Cunegonde in the original production of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide. This was followed by her creations of two classic roles in the America musical theatre -- Marian the Librarian in the premiere production of Meredith Willson’s The Music Man, a performance which earned her the Tony Award, Amalia in the Bock-Harnick-Masteroff musical She Loves Me. In addition to starring roles in The Gay Life, and The Grass Harp, Ms. Cook played Mrs. Anna in the legendary City Center revival of The King and I and appeared in a second production of Carousel at City Center, this time playing the role of Julie Jordan. Some time later she played Magnolia in the New York State Theatre’s production of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein’s fabled Showboat. Ms. Cook originated the role of Patsy in Jules Feiffer’s Little Murders, and in 1972 she again returned to the dramatic stage in the Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Center’s production of Gorky’s Enemies.
In 1974, Ms. Cook began a creative partnership with musical arranger, accompanist, composer, dance arranger and conductor Wally Harper, a shining model of artistic collaboration and enduring friendship, which lasted for nearly thirty-one years until his death last year. Numerous recordings mark the journey of this unique partnership, beginning with Barbara Cook at Carnegie Hall, a live recording of their legendary 1975 Carnegie Hall debut, now freshly re-released by Sony Records. A subsequent engagement at Carnegie Hall in September 1980 was captured on It’s Better With a Band, produced and arranged by Mr. Harper. Ms. Cook and Mr. Harper traveled the world together and performed a number of times at the White House - for Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton.
In September 1985 Ms. Cook appeared with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra as Sally in the renowned concert version of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies. She also recorded Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel and The Disney Album for the MCA record label. Nominated in 1986 for an Olivier Award for her one-woman show at London’s Albery Theatre, Ms. Cook received the Drama Desk Award in 1987 for her Broadway show A Concert for the Theatre. In October 1991 Ms. Cook’s appearance as a featured artist at the Carnegie Hall Gala Music and Remembrance: A Celebration of Great Musical Partnerships underscored her commitment to two important causes: the advancement of the performing arts and support of AIDS research. Miss Cook was one of the only American performers chosen to perform at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Arts Festival in the fabled Sydney Opera House. Musical America selected her as their 2007 Vocalist of the Year, the first pop singer to be so honored by this classical performing arts organization.
Ms. Cook’s studio recordings include eight original cast albums; two Ben Bagley albums of songs by Jerome Kern and George Gershwin; an album entitled Songs of Perfect Propriety, featuring poems by Dorothy Parker set to music by Seymour Barab; and As Of Today on the Columbia label. Ms. Cook can also be heard as the voice of Thumbelina’s mother in the Warner Bros. animated film Thumbelina, with music by Barry Manilow, now available on videocassette. Her most recent DRG recordings also include Close as Pages in a Book, featuring the lyrics of Dorothy Fields; Barbara Cook: Live from London; Oscar Winners: The Lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein; All I Ask of You and The Champion Season: A Salute to Gower Champion, the Grammy nominated Count Your Blessings, a collection of traditional Christmas songs, Tribute, based on her sold-out Café Carlyle concert, No One Is Alone, based on her most recent Carnegie Hall concert, Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder and the boxed-set of recordings The Essential Barbara Cook, Cheek to Cheek, a live performance recording of her critically acclaimed concert with Michael Feinstein at Feinstein’s at the Regency, and her latest, You Make Me Feel So Young, also recorded live in performance at Feinstein’s at the Regency.