The amazing Barbara Cook is famous and beloved as a performer, not a writer. New Dramatists is an organization dedicated to the development of new playwrights. But, as board president Isobel Robins Konecky said at the group's 53rd annual benefit luncheon this afternoon, "New Dramatists loves actors!" And so it was that Cook received the organization's 2002 Lifetime Achievement Award today in a luncheon ceremony held in the Broadway Ballroom of the Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square.
Given Konecky's statement, she must have been thrilled by the number of high-profile performers who turned out for the luncheon: From A to Z, the very long list included Christine Andreas, Alan Bates, Lauren Bacall, Charles Busch, Kate Burton, Kathleen Chalfant, Davis Gaines, Joel Grey, Shuler Hensley, Frank Langella, Hal Linden, Joyce Randolph, Carole Shelley, Jean Stapleton, Lily Tomlin, and Karen Ziemba.
Also on hand were such legendary Cook colleagues as Hal Prince, Joe Masteroff, Sheldon Harnick--and, of course, her longtime musical director, Wally Harper. The afternoon's festivities featured entertainment in the form of a tribute to Cook by Harnick, Eric McCormack, and Howard McGillin. These and other celebs were introduced from the dais by one of the stars of Thoroughly Modern Millie, Sheryl Lee Ralph, who managed the Herculean task with almost no mispronunciations (though she did identify Shuler Hensley as "Hensley Shuler").
For its lifetime achievement award, New Dramatists annually selects "an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the American theater." Barbara Cook began her career on Broadway in the 1950s, starring in such musicals as Flahooley, Plain and Fancy, Candide, The Music Man, and She Loves Me before magnificently reinventing herself as a cabaret and concert performer in the 1970s. Since then, has continued to delight audiences in venues ranging from the Café Carlyle to the great concert halls of the world. Her Mostly Sondheim program was such a hit at Carnegie Hall last year that she brought it to the stage of the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center this season; a return engagement at the Beaumont is planned for this summer after Cook performs the show in Washington, D.C. as part of the Sondheim Celebration at the Kennedy Center.
Cook joins an elite group with this afternoon's award: past New Dramatists honorees have included Julie Andrews, Jerry Herman, John Kander and Fred Ebb, Angela Lansbury, Arthur Miller, Neil Simon, Stephen Sondheim, and Gwen Verdon.