COOK: Yes, I'm doing a Christmas album. I've wanted to do one forever, so finally, finally, we're doing one. I'm going to sing "Silent Night," "The First Noel," a few hymn-like ones. And some fun ones. We're in the midst of choosing songs right now.
TM: Have you attended the Tonys in recent years?
COOK: No. Nobody invites me, so I don't go.
TM: Did you ever do any Tony broadcasts?
COOK: I was on a couple of times. The last time I was on--oh, it's a few years ago--they were doing some sort of salute to different shows that had won, so I sang "Till There Was You." One reason I wasn't on [more frequently] is because I gained weight. That's absolutely true. Alexander Cohen's wife--what was her name?
TM: Hildy Parks.
COOK: Yes. She literally told somebody that she didn't want me on, because I had gained weight.
TM: That's awful.
COOK: That's correct! (Laughs) But there it is. So I was not presentable for the Tonys. It's amazing, isn't it? Somebody who was managing me called and was told, point blank, "Sorry, we don't want her."
TM: That is just the saddest thing.
COOK: Well, what can I tell you? You know, one thing that's changed [at the Tonys] and I think they should put it back: There's no category for conductors. And they're very important.
TM: They used to have a category.
COOK: Absolutely. Herbert Greene won for The Music Man. For some reason, they dropped it. Isn't it strange that they don't honor the conductors? I wonder why.
TM: One thing about the televised broadcast--they already have that first hour on PBS, where they put designers and composers-
COOK: But they don't even do it [for conductors] there. They could do it off-camera, even, and then print it in the paper, at least. But they don't even have the category. That seems strange to me.
TM: Well, you know, sound designers are unhappy that they don't have a Tony category, either. There have been a lot of complaints, most often from reviewers in the Times, about sound design in the theater. Do you dislike it, too?
COOK: If it's well done, I don't mind. A lot of people are purists, but I don't feel that way, particularly. When we started out, of course, there was no amplification at all. Then when we did The Music Man, there were a few microphones in the footlights. That's very different from having body mics--it's a whole different ballgame. But the last book show I did on Broadway in 1971--
TM: The Grass Harp?
COOK: Yes. We had no amplification at all. None. On purpose. A lot of people loved that. There were a lot of good singers in that show. Now, of course, they put the microphone up in your hair. Who was it--somebody, who's really quite sophisticated, said, "What is that mole on the top of your forehead?" I said, "That's the microphone!" (Laughs). They never realized! That was just a few weeks ago. [Changing the subject] You know, there's a new revival of The King and I in London. It just opened with Elaine Paige. It's enormously successful. They had something like a seven-million-pound advance, before they even opened. I just a got a note from Elaine; she says that people are standing every night-that's very unusual for London. She's thrilled.
TM: You did The King and I, didn't you?
COOK: A couple of times. I did it at City Center with Farley Granger. He was sensational. One reason we were so successful is that nobody expected either of us to be good in those roles-and we were wonderful together. We had a terrific chemistry, so it was a very sexy show. That was not true with Yul Brynner and..what the hell's her name?
TM: Gertrude Lawrence?
COOK: Yes. (Laughs).
TM: I think you'd be perfect as Anna. Why didn't anyone expect you to be good?
COOK: Because I was thought of this little girl. I had never done a role that was so womanly before. It was a real leading lady role.
TM: You know, it has been written that you brought great complexity to ingenue roles.
COOK: The truth is, I didn't play a lot of ingenues. But because of the way I looked and the way I sounded, people thought of me as this quintessential ingenue. If you really, really look at the roles I played--Marian [in The Music Man] is not an ingenue. Her mother's afraid she's not going to get married. She's getting up there; she's probably in her 30s.
TM: Amalia in She Loves Me is like that, too.
COOK: Yeah. She's not an ingenue. Even in Candide--Cunegonde was a kind of cartoon of an ingenue. In the production we did, I ended up as an old crone with a hump on my back. Interesting, isn't it? And yet, I'm thought of as this ingenue.
TM: Well, I suppose it's the tendency of people to try and put everyone in categories.
COOK: Ain't it the truth! (Laughs)