"An Evening With Carol Channing" At Don't Tell Mama
Reviewed by David Roberts for Theatre Reviews Limited
If it weren't for Jerry Herman there might not be the Carol Channing that audiences have come to know and adore. I am not sure that there would be no Carol Channing in show business, but there would not be the particular star we now easily identify by that name. What is certain is that had it not been for Jerry Herman we would not know Richard Skipper's Carol Channing and not to know Mr. Skipper as Ms. Channing would be an unquestionable loss.
From the moment Richard Skipper is summoned on stage by the talented top hat-and-tie dancers Jon Kowalski and Luke Rawlings (Carol's "boys") until the last note of "Hello, Dolly!" melts in the audience's memory Richard Skipper channels the spirit and considerable will of Carol Channing onto the stage and into every nook and cranny of the performance space called Don't Tell Mama.
Because Mr. Skipper respects Carol Channing so much, everything he does in his impersonation of her turns out exactly right. There are many times during the performance one absolutely forgets that anyone other than Carol Channing is on the stage completely winning over her awestruck and often tear-filled audience.
And why the awe? Why the tears? Both exist because Richard and Carol believe so deeply in the connectedness of humankind. In both their worlds (and in the worlds of the characters Carol Channing has introduced throughout her career) there are no orphans. There are no "only children." There are only hands in others' hands ("I Put My Hand In" by Jerry Herman) and a new style of connectedness that transcends age and gender and sexuality.
Perhaps this is most apparent when "Carol" sings, "It Only Takes A Moment" from Jerry Herman's "Hello, Dolly!" Richard Skipper's translucence to Carol Channing's generous spirit leaves every member of the audience convinced of their worth, their dignity, and their ultimate connectedness and interdependence.
"An Evening With Carol Channing" includes an incredible roster of songs from "Sweet Charity," "Chicago," "Lorelie," "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," "Mrs. Santa Clause," and of course "Hello, Dolly!" It also includes "Carol's" complete attentiveness to her audience. Conveying gratitude and respect, Richard Skipper transforms not only his own persona into that of Carol Channing; he also manages to seduce each audience member into her or his own needed transformation from loneliness to relatedness and from casual observer to full participant in the human race.
As this critic perceived his own transformation-in-process, he glanced at "Carol" not only from the front but also in the mirrors lining the performance space. It seemed at odd and fleeting moments that over Richard Skipper's shoulders one could make out clearly not only images of Carol Channing, but also images of Ethel and Marilyn and all those others who from their places of loneliness convinced us time and again that we are not alone now nor need we ever be alone again.
There will never be another Carol Channing. Ever. There will never be another Richard Skipper. Ever. See his wonderful show whenever you can and as often as you can.
RICHARD SKIPPER: "AN EVENING WITH CAROL CHANNING"
"An Evening With Carol Channing" starring Richard Skipper. With dancers Jon Kowalski and Luke Rawlings. Directed by Thomas Morrisey. Musical Direction by James Followell; arrangements by David Maiocco and William Waldinger; special material by Jeff Matson. At Don't Tell Mama, 343 West 46th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues. Tuesday evening, January 30th at 9:00 p.m. (a benefit for TOPA - Towards Older Person Awareness - featuring eight of the brightest stars in cabaret); and Tuesday, February 6th at 9:00 p.m. $20.00 Cover with a two drink minimum. For reservations call (212) 757-0788.