Directed by Mark Robert Gordon
Saturday, Dec. 25, 2010
Reviewed by Marion DS Dreyfus,

Sweeping onto the serviceable if petite stage of the St. Luke's theatre on 'way west 46th Street' lovely Richard Skipper, with platinum signature Channing hairdo, wide crimson smile and glittering deep red sparkly dress greets the audience with the quavering vibrato of the fabulous Ms. Channing. On each of her fingers is a sizable bauble, the size of golfballs, which she flings, one at a time, as she belts out "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend." Regrettably, we sat too far back to reap any of the 'diamonds' from the throws.

After a lifetime of friendship with the original, and 18 years performing this enormously sweet and pleasing tribute tribute 'as-if,' Skipper has the tropes down pretty accurately. In a 90-minute performance that includes all the beloved classics from "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" and Hello Dolly!, movies and plays not well-remembered but whose songs linger rhapsodically in our collective unconscious, Skipper/Channing provides a boffo evening without intermission, full-throated, cheery beyond measure (as is the original), comic above expectations (ditto), and handles the imperfect and often nutty tourist and resident attendees' questions and remarks with maximum aplomb and  unfailing charm. In the audience were also some famed TV and radio and stage personalities, all of whom were graciously and kindly introduced to the crowd.

Not once in the evening did she 'slip' into the voice of the man inhabiting the woman inhabiting the stage. Behind her, posters and photos of the immortal Channing continued to dazzle the eye of the audience, pictures from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. The audience pre-filled in questions that Ms. Channing answered, which is where the wheat separated from the chaff. Vervy comic timing and hilarious put-downs--always with a smile--wowed the sentient listener.

The mission of the production, according to Associate Producer Mark Gordon, in addition to entertainment, is to present show biz "as it used to be."  Good-natured mock-gentle tilting, lilting and cherished show tunes (with a gifted musical ensemble accompaniment), wrapped-up cabaret history in a cerise sheath dress. Nothing interferes with the painless hark-back to a few decades ago. Treat yourself to winning speculations on the vagaries of talent, marriage, the nature of succeeding on Broadway. Diamonds may be a girl's best friend. But enjoying oneself guiltlessly [slightly off Broadway] sure is a close second.

P.S.: Carol knows and adores this guy, and loves what he does with her life and stage.

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