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SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM’s Cook & Williams in USA Today

USA Today
May 5, 2010
 
Singing ‘Sondheim’ praises
By Elysa Gardner
 
NEW YORK — Don’t get theater and cabaret veteran Barbara Cook started on the physical attributes of singer/actress Vanessa Williams, her co-star in Sondheim on Sondheim, the new Broadway musical at Studio 54.
 
“I don’t believe Vanessa was born — she was drawn,” Cook, 82, said before a performance recently. “It’s unbelievable how gorgeous she is. There’s a scene where you see her in these little skivvies, and her legs go on for days.”Cook’s singing inspires similar enthusiasm among her fans, including Williams, 47, who calls her “a Broadway legend” and says “she still sounds great and still giggles like a schoolgirl.”
 
On Monday, that schoolgirl collected a Tony Award nomination for best featured actress in a musical — an honor she accepts, with characteristic modesty, on behalf of the production: “It’s such a team effort that this is for all of us.”
 
Like Williams, though, Cook singles out one member of that team for attention and praise: the show’s subject.
 
Neither woman is a stranger to Stephen Sondheim’s music and lyrics: Williams starred in a 2002 revival of Into the Woods. Cook’s projects range from a beloved 1985 concert staging of Follies to the club tribute turned Broadway revue Mostly Sondheim.
 
But Sondheim on Sondheim, a Roundabout Theatre Company production conceived and directed by James Lapine (Sondheim’s librettist for Woods, among other efforts), offers a more intimate look at one of musical theater’s most celebrated and elusive figures.
 
Sondheim, 80, appears throughout, via video, discussing creative and personal challenges in recent interviews and archival footage.
 
“He’s been very open about difficult stuff,” says Cook, a longtime friend of the composer. “People come knowing that they’ll enjoy the music, but I don’t think anybody expects to be as moved.”
 
For Williams, watching the video segments has been “like taking a master class. You see what he went through, where the songs came from, and then everything makes sense.”

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