REVIEWS

THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE:

"'Sondheim on Sondheim' feels like a unified entity. This is almost entirely due to the enigmatic presence of Austin Cook, the musical director for the show and the solo piano player at center stage. Cook is a phenomenal pianist, able to swivel his body away from the keys and barely look at music or his hands. Stranger yet, he looks exactly like a young Sondheim, evoking the same insouciance, warmth, edge and improviser's soul. Toward the end of Act 1, when the cast is engaged in a full-throated medley of the man's great emotional hits..., it is as if Cook, as Sondheim, is willing them on to some dangerous but revealing emotional spot. It blew me away, frankly. This is no crude impression, but it adds soul to the show, a quality that the first production lacked." 

     - Chris Jones of Chicago Tribune on SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM

"Cook, who has been out on tour for a while, is just the pianist you want for this kind of show - a tad wild, wholly unpredictable, fully immersed, constantly in motion. Few versions of "Ain't Misbehavin' really feel like a rent party. This one does, and the stakes fly high."

     - Chris Jones of Chicago Tribune on AIN'T MISBEHAVIN'

"The famous songs 'Aquarius,' 'Easy to Be Hard' and 'Where Do I Go?' all have lyrics restored from the earliest version of the show ('Aquarius' sounds totally different under Austin Cook's musical direction.) I don't want to spoil the various fresh interpretations (musical and textual) by revealing them all in advance, but know that those little jokey scenes with authority figures now are played without any layered-on style. Everything strives for believability. There is no joking around. 'Dead End,' now a kind of 'Rent'-like collage of the black experience is fabulous now."

     - Chris Jones of Chicago Tribune on HAIR

"Reckling and his fellow actors are accompanied by a hot little band, featuring the handsome and expensive Austin Cook on piano (Cook also is musical director.) Cook's very contemporary presence helps Didier escape some of that tired revue nomenclature."

     - Chris Jones of Chicago Tribune on PUTTING IT TOGETHER

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THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES:

"The Porchlight production, directed by Nick Bowling, features a knockout turn by the galvanically talented Austin Cook, the onstage pianist/singer/actor/musical director. Cook's playing is orchestral in its emotional sweep, and throughout he serves as something of a youthful alter ego to the composer-lyricist, complete with Sondheimlike beard. An immense talent, I wouldn't be surprised if he wrote his own musical one day."

     - Hedy Weiss of Chicago Sun-Times on SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM

"With her seamless, fluid, red-hot mode of storytelling, director-choreographer Brenda Didier has turned a familiar story into a wholly riveting take on innocence, experience and appetite. But it is her musical director/pianist, Austin Cook - a 24-year-old wonder whose seductive arrangements are beyond brilliant, and whose wholly engaging stage presence makes him another actor in the drama - who comes close to stealing the show. Sadly, he will be moving on to "Million Dollar Quartet" after this weekend. But his exceptional co-musicians, Matthew Sitz (percussion) and Sam Filip (bass), will remain as part of the onstage party."

     - Hedy Weiss of Chicago Sun-Times on PUTTING IT TOGETHER

"As they do so, each singer in Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre's new revue ' Some Enchanted Evening: The Songs of Rodgers and Hammerstein' also checks in with Austin Cook, their piano accompanist and the show's exceptional music director. The lanky, sweet-faced (lad's) superb playing on a sleek white baby grand and his ingenious and often surprising arrangements of the show's more than three dozen songs mark him as a big talent to watch. (He also can sing.)"

     - Hedy Weiss of Chicago Sun-Times on SOME ENCHANTED EVENING

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THE HUFFINGTON POST

"The surprising anchor of this production, however, is the mega-talented Austin Cook, who sets the music spinning through his deft accompaniment and charisma. Sporting a Sondheim-like beard, Cook represents the next generation of talent that "God" himself, I'm sure, would be proud of."

     - Robert Bullen of The Huffington Post on SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM

TIME OUT MAGAZINE

"Music director Austin Cook, bearded and outfitted to recall a young Sondheim himself, is a powerful force on the piano at center stage; his performance with young talents Amelia Hefferon and Yando Lopez of 'Opening Doors,' from Merrily We Roll Along, provides a persuasive case for a full production."

      -  Kris Vire of Time Out Magazine on SONDHEIM ON SONDHEIM

"Through joyous singing, galvanizing dancing and feisty attitude, every song becomes a world that the five knockout performers inhabit, backed by bass, drums, horns, and especially the virtuosic stride (Harlem jazz style) piano-playing by conductor Austin Cook."

     - Megan Powell of Time Out Magazine on AIN'T MISBEHAVIN'

"The intimacy of the space, and the artistry of music director Austin Cook, allow for some truly lovely new discoveries in the show's loose, winning score, such as a nicely ragged, acoustic take on 'Ain't Got No' and an a cappella 'Initials.' "

     -  Kris Vire of Time Out Magazine on HAIR