Barbara Cook Announces Retirement at 89 | Playbill

Broadway News Barbara Cook Announces Retirement at 89 The veteran soprano shaped the sound of Broadway’s golden age.
Barbara Cook
Barbara Cook Mike Martin

Tony Award-winning theatre veteran Barbara Cook, who began her Broadway career 66 years ago with the 1951 musical Flahooley, has retired from the stage, according to her son, Adam LeGrant.

In an interview with The New York Times, LeGrant cited his mother’s limited mobility in recent years as a factor in the decision, stating, “The years have not been kind to her joints.” Last summer Ms. Cook played a three-night engagement at Feinstein's/54 Below, for which she used a wheelchair.

She told Playbill at the time, “I’m in a wheelchair, and I’m not crazy about being seen in this wheelchair. It may be silly, and I’ll probably get over it, but arriving in a wheelchair is not what I want to do. I do need to get over that I think.”

“The public hasn’t seen her in months,” LeGrant said, clarifying that it was Ms. Cook who decided to go public with news of her retirement. The Times was to interview Ms. Cook via phone for the story, but LeGrant informed them she would not be coming on the line.

Her son added that Ms. Cook may still decide to return to the stage. “She may decide to come out of retirement like Frank Sinatra did,” he said.

Read the 2016 Diva Talk interview: A CANDID CONVERSATION WITH BARBARA COOK

Ms. Cook earned a 1958 Tony Award for her performance as Marian Paroo in The Music Man. Her stage appearances also include She Loves Me, Candide, Plain and Fancy, and The Grass Harp. She was last on Broadway in the 2010 musical retrospective Sondheim on Sondheim.

In June 2016, Ms. Cook published her deeply personal memoir Then and Now. She wrote candidly about her personal life, including her battle with alcoholism and its connection to her anxiety attacks. The performer also shared stories of auditioning for Leonard Bernstein, working with Robert Preston, taking direction from Harold Prince, and building an international concert career with musical director and accompanist Wally Harper. The memoir contained anecdotes about her friendships with the likes of Elaine Stritch and Maureen Stapleton, as well as her loving relationship with LeGrant, her only child.

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