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Reviews

Barbara Cook's Broadway

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Presented by Lincoln Center Theater at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, 150 W. 65 St., March 28-April 18.

Tiresome though it may be to restate the obvious, it must be said: at 76, Barbara Cook is simply a vocal marvel. Some lowered keys notwithstanding, Cook sounds not markedly different than she did 50 years ago. Soubrette numbers like "When I Marry Mr. Snow" and "A Wonderful Guy" are incredibly buoyant and youthful.

In fact, Cook is singing even more attractively now than at the start of her cabaret career. Her voice is a mellower, richer instrument. And there's such rightness in the way she traces a song's arc, you wonder why every singer doesn't phrase precisely as she does.

This is Cook's follow-up to "Mostly Sondheim," which she's performed for the last two years. Here, she's put together an evening of Broadway-related songs, some she originated, others in tribute to favorite shows and performers, but most of which she's sung before in her themed evenings. The result is a bounteous memento of a lustrous career.

It's pointless to single out highlights when every song illuminates another aspect of her remarkable art, but the exuberance of "He (She) Loves Me, " the rapt beauty of "This Nearly Was Mine," and the bluesy ruefulness of "The Gentleman Is a Dope" were outstanding.

Sensibly dressed in black, her patter is disarmingly down-to-earth, as she relates tales of everyone from Stritch to Bernstein.

Mark Salzberg's sound is tasteful if a shade muted. Inevitably Cook's voice has more presence when she uses the hand mike, though the body mike allows her more mobility when she needs it. Bruce Rubin's lighting sets the mood appropriately, but Cook's wish that the house lights remain slightly lit throughout—a friendly touch—arguably spoils some of the mood.

Along with Richard Sarpola on bass, Cook's invaluable aide and soul mate (for 30 years!), Wally Harper, provides definitive accompaniment.

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