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Barbara Cook

<p>Barbara Cook</p>

Barbara Cook

[Music] Thursday-Sunday, Aug. 16-19

Barbara Cook

No one goes to a musical for the dialogue. The stories may be intriguing and the sets beautiful, but the real attraction is the singing. The best Broadway stars have voices that approach technical perfection. They move up and down the scales like lyrical Spider-Men.

And the voices have to be big enough to hit the nosebleed section. It seems like a lot to ask for, but hundreds of men and women sing well enough to work on Broadway at any given time.

Working on Broadway is different than defining Broadway, which is exactly what Barbara Cook did during her heyday in the 1950s. She won a Tony award for her seminal turn as Marian the Librarian in the premiere production of The Music Man and elevated a revival of The King and I to musical theater legend. For 20 years, she dazzled audiences in major theatrical productions and won practically every honor available to a singing musical actor.

In the 1970s, she began striking out on her own, and with musical partner Wally Harper. They took the best parts of famous musicals — the songs — and strung them together in concerts at Carnegie Hall and around the world.

Cook occasionally returned to the stage, but in her later years has become known for her blockbuster medleys of Broadway tunes. And here’s the incredible thing: Her voice holds up, even in her mid-80s.

The 85-year-old Cook will perform a four-night stand at the Smith Center, at an age when most people are lucky to make it through a bingo game. Last year the Kennedy Center named Cook an official honoree. If you like Broadway, you’ll love Cook, so catch her now before she retires.

8 p.m., Aug. 16-18, 3 p.m., Aug. 19; Cabaret Jazz at The Smith Center, 361 Symphony Park Ave., 749-2000,, $40-$70.