Carol Channing in Concert - Starring Richard Skipper
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010 12:15 PM Reviewed By Sandi Durell

In a one-night only musical montage at off-Broadway's St. Luke's Theatre on Restaurant Row, loveable and talented Richard Skipper ( celebrated the life and times of Carol Channing. ( Skipper has been performing as such for a number of years singing not only the familiar Channing standards, but incorporating his distinctive clever ad-libs, along with other material.

As a precursor to the evening, yours truly was at Joe Allen's restaurant ( with some friends. In one of the ladies' rooms there hung a show poster of the inimitable Ms. Channing as "Lorelei." I took this as a sign of something special.

The theatre at St. Luke's was sold out. The audience held its fair share of celebrities present including Celeste Holm, Betsy Palmer, Joe Franklin and songwriter Ervin Drake ( former showgirl wife, Edith. He's 91, she's 88. In a tribute to Mr. Drake, Skipper included one of Drake's 1967 ditties written for and recorded by Carol Channing, "Widow's Weeds," a long story about a lady who's looking real pretty in her Jefferson City Widow's Weeds each time another husband bites the dust. There was a buzz and excitement in the air as the evening was being filmed as part of an upcoming documentary based on the life and career of Tony Award winner Carol Channing. Ms. Channing and Richard had already made a joint appearance at Barnes & Noble at Lincoln Centre in NYC ( a packed house a few days prior.

The evening opened with Martina Vidmar, who looks a lot like Bernadette Peters, singing "The Best of Times" followed by two additional songs. She's a bit of a screamer and, I must admit, after one song I was anxious to see Carol take the stage. Finally, the elegantly dressed Skipper, in wig, white sparkly brocade and bejeweled gown, large multi-colored rings on every finger, appeared. Skipper captures the essence of the grand lady of theatre in a way that not only embodies her sound, but spirit. Channing has always remarked how thrilled she is to be shown with such love, respect and polish.

Skipper is good on his feet, as they say, with that ability to ad-lib at a moment's notice, especially so when he's engaging audience members in what is always a hilarious interchange. Along the way he provides a running history of Carol Channing from growing up in Seattle, Washington, attending Bennington College, weaving in and through her life personally and in theatre. Many of Channing's best and well-known songs are sung in her incomparably stylized tradition with on-going dialogue of behind the scenes stories.

The highlights included "Elegance," "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" (as those sparkly rings on Skipper's hands disappeared to eager audience members), "Jazz Baby," and a medley of songs from "Hello Dolly."

I did wonder about the inclusion of songs not related to Channing in this presentation and the length, without intermission, is nearly 2 hours. However, the show is solid entertainment and laughter that sparkles in more ways than one. There is talk about a potential off-Broadway run. Skipper was ably accompanied by John Fischer on piano, Jeff Carney, bass and Steve Bartosik, percussion.

Photo credit: Devin Delano
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