Barbara Cook
(Photo © Michael Portantiere)
Barbara Cook
(Photo © Michael Portantiere)
Only two things in this world improve with age: wine and Barbara Cook. We're not big wine drinkers, but put us at a table at the Café Carlyle and just watch us drink in the magnificence of Cook in her new show, which runs through April 1. For this engagement, she's offering a retrospective of past musical glories, singing songs she has performed in this room over the past 25 years. With Eric Stern as her musical director, Cook's voice continues to combine a remarkably delicate sensitivity with the underlying strength of a steel rod.

Never previously known for her patter, Cook is loose and entertainingly chatty in this show, telling stories that range from breaking into the business at a burlesque house in Atlanta when she was 15 to Stephen Sondheim telling her how he wept while listening to her sing songs that he wished he had written. Cook's unpretentious ease with an anecdote serves her well.

But one doesn't go to the Café Carlyle and pay a $100 cover charge just to hear Barbara Cook talk. When she sings, you immediately start to believe in miracles. In a show brimming with beauty, she performs Carol Hall's "Ain't Love Easy" with an aching simplicity, commits herself to a deliciously nutty "My Dog Loves Your Dog," and breaks your heart with a definitive rendition of "Bill." The perfection of her ageless soprano and her unerring acting acumen are the stuff of true greatness. (For more information on her show, click here.)

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Samantha Sidley
Samantha Sidley
Suddenly Sidley

Twenty-year-old Samantha Sidley is making her New York cabaret debut at the Algonquin Hotel's Oak Room. How did that happen? Sidley is the winner of the hotel's first annual Young Artist Competition, and the prize was a two-week engagement at the legendary boite. Having been given a golden opportunity, Sidley is making the most of it.

This surprisingly self-assured jazz singer has already mastered some of the more difficult tricks of the trade, including making eye contact with the audience, playing to the entire room (not just the people directly in front of her), and displaying excellent taste in her musical choices. (She includes a healthy amount of Duke Ellington and George Gershwin in her repertoire.) Her show is wisely called All My Tomorrows, named after the Sammy Cahn/Jimmy Van Heusen song that she sings as a hopeful statement about her future.

She is supported by three exceptional musicians, all of them essentially as young as she. If you think you're looking at the band that played at your prom, don't be fooled by appearances: Komori on piano is stunning, Blake Marquez on bass is a find, and Aaron Weinstein on violin and mandolin is an amazing prodigy. (He also wrote most of the show's arrangements). Sidley is by no means a polished artist yet; her patter is girlish, she has a tendency to swallow her words, and she needs to find more of an emotional connection to her material. On the plus side, she is pretty, pert, and poised. Her winning air will carry her past some of her rough edges.

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[To contact the Siegels directly, e-mail them at siegels@theatermania.com.]