Richard Skipper

Carol Channing in Concert

Wings Theater
New York, NY
To judge from the enthusiastic reaction of the audience, most of whom had obviously seen some version of this show before, Richard Skipper as Carol Channing is well on his way to becoming a cult figure. In a two-act version of his popular cabaret show, Skipper had the time and space to develop his concept of the legendary musical theater star, who has said of him, "He is FABULOUS AS ME!"

There were several advantages to doing the show as a theater piece. On stage, the three musicians, Paul L. Johnson on piano (the night we were there), Chris Clement on Percussion, and Brian Grochowski on Bass, did not have to crowd each other, and the sound from each was clear and sharp. There were three "chorus boys," Rocco L. Arrigo, Michael Hopewell, and Kristopher Monroe, who danced, sang (sometimes while Skipper was off stage), and in blonde wigs even impersonated Golde Hawn in Laugh-In (that one of them sports a mustache and beard made this impersonation even more amusing). The stage set consisted of poster-sized blow-ups of Carol Channing photographs from different stages in her career, the visual background making all the more vivid Skipper's anecdotes as he moved through episodes in Channing's life and career. The pictures made it clear that the opulent gowns worn by Skipper (we'd like to know where he got those shoes!) were typical of her costumes.

At the same time, the Wings Theater is small enough for Skipper to have maintained the intimacy with his audience that is the dominant feature of cabaret. Taking questions from the audience, Skipper created answers that were skits in themselves, such as the most embarrassing moment in Channing's career. The rings tossed to the audience had people reaching eagerly for these supposed replicas of Channing jewels. There were few surprises in the songs Skipper sang, sounding more like Channing than Channing herself, most from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Hello, Dolly!. The less familiar and bitingly cynical "Widow's Weeds" by Ervin Drake, performed in Act I, was reprised in Act II.

Carol Channing in Concert was directed by Miles Phillips, who like Richard Skipper, is a MAC Award Winning performer. We deliberately brought with us a guest who had never before seen Richard Skipper/Carol Channing. "Great fun" was her comment as we exited the theater.

Carol Channing in Concert continues Mondays & Thursdays-Saturdays through Feb. 16 at Wings Theater, 154 Christopher St.

Barbara Leavy
Cabaret Scenes
January 25, 2008