Richard Skipper Is Carol Channing's Best Friend
By Tom Lynch
The "+ 2" in this particular party refers to two of Broadway's finest tunesmiths, Jerry Herman and Jule Styne, whose work is being celebrated. "+ 2" also refers to two aditional cast members, Parker Scott and Miles Phillips, who sweated through the August heat working out tough harmonies on a clever Styne medley at rehearsal the other afternoon. Choreographer Susan Matsuki devised smooth moves, and Richard figured out just how Carol would have sounded had she ever replaced Mary Martin and performed Styne's Peter Pan songs at the Winter Garden.
"I want people to have the theatrical experience of seeing Carol Channing onstage" declares Richard. He does that, and a bit more. There is an element of improvisational and interactive theatre that you won't find in the "other" Carol's act. This Carol interacts with the audience creating much mirth in the process. The performer must always be on his toes and react to all audience queries just as Carol might. Audience members may sit down as strangers, but are often friends by the finale.
I asked Richard how long has this been going on? His introduction to Carol wasn't even really Carol. As a kid, Richard saw Lucille Ball impersonating Carol on an episode of The Lucy Show. Not long afterwards he viewed the Carol Channing & Pearl Bailey on Broadway TV special (which was recently released on DVD). As a young man, this southern boy made the journey to NYC to seek acting jobs. But the gift for channeling Carol wouldn't stay hidden.
Richard often performs songs the real Carol never got to do, and you'll hear plenty of them in Friday's celebration of the Broadway songs of Jule Styne and Jerry Herman. Richard is "bedazzled by Broadway" (also the title of an upcoming cabaret show he is directing), and he asks why there is "nothing devoted to New York theatre at the new New York branch of Madame Tussauds." Another pet peeve is his perception that the Tony awards are overlooking "the great stars of the theatre that are still with us."
Current enthusiasms include Valerie Harper in Broadway's Tale of the Allergist's Wife. At the Barrymore the other day Richard reminded a patron steeping on his toes while skipping the curtain call, that "bows are just as much a part of the show as the curtain coming up." You tell 'em!
The curtain goes up on Carol Channing + 2 (directed by Jeff Matson) on Friday, Aug. 10 @ 10pm at Don't Tell Mama (343 W. 46th St.; 212-757-0788)
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