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The Players to Honor Barbara Cook with Helen Hayes Award; Charles Busch to Host

The Players, the city's most fabled private social club for actors and artists, will present its inaugural Helen Hayes Award to Barbara Cook, the musical theatre legend who is widely considered one of the twentieth century's best interpreters of the Great American Songbook, at a gala ceremony on Thursday, September 15th.

Named for legendary actress Helen Hayes (1900-1993), the first female member ever admitted to The Players, the newly established award honors women who have made an indelible contribution to the American theatre.

Cook, who will be honored on Thursday, September 15th at a gala ceremony at the club's Gramercy Park mansion, was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1927. Described by critic Alistair Macauley as "the greatest singer in the world," Cook starred in the original Broadway productions of Candide, She Loves Me, and The Music Man, for which she won a Tony Award. In recent years, she established herself as an acclaimed cabaret and concert singer and earned a 2010 Tony Award nomination for her performance in the musical Sondheim on Sondheim, directed by James Lapine.

Over the course of her sixty-year career, Cook has won Tony, Grammy, Drama Desk, and New York Drama Critics Circle Awards, was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame, and was cited as a Living New York Landmark. In 2011 she became a Kennedy Center Honors recipient. Earlier this summer Cook released her memoir, Then and Now, to critical accolades.

Hayes, who was known through much of the twentieth century as "the First Lady of the American Theatre," is one of only a dozen artists to win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony Award (collectively known as an EGOT). In 1988, Hayes earned the distinction of being the first woman admitted to The Player

The ceremony will showcase a stellar lineup of Players members. Actor and playwright Charles Busch (Psycho Beach Party) will serve as emcee, while rising musical-theatre stars Shana Farr and N'Kenge Pacurar will perform alongside acclaimed cabaret veteran Steve Ross. The evening will also include a performance by opera soprano Claire Coolen, a Martina Arroyo Foundation artist. Composer and music director Josh Kight will accompany the evening's singers.

"Barbara Cook is a true cultural icon whose transcendent voice has captured the hearts of adoring audiences around the world, from Broadway and Carnegie Hall to intimate night clubs and international stages," said The Players president Michael Barra. "She is the perfect artist to help us inaugurate this award commemorating the great Helen Hayes, whom we are proud to claim as a member of The Players."

Founded in 1888 by actor Edwin Booth with 15 other incorporators including Mark Twain, The Players is New York City's premier social club for theatre, television, film, music, and publishing professionals, patrons of the arts, and business and civic leaders. Housed in the Booth mansion, a landmark Greek Revival townhouse on Gramercy Park, The Players celebrates the rich cultural life of New York City with exclusive membership events that include live performances, readings by leading authors and playwrights, film screenings, and special dining and cocktail experiences in its famous Grill Room. Presidents of The Players have included Jose Ferrer, Lynn Redgrave and Timothy Hutton.

Pictured: Barbara Cook, honored by The Players with the first-ever Helen Hayes Award. Painting by Everett Raymond Kinstler (2008).

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