Back where (s)he belongs

An Evening With Carol Channing Starring Richard Skipper

Midtown International Theatre Festival
WorkShop Theater Mainstage
Closes Aug. 1
312 W. 36th St., 4th fl. (212/868-4444;;
Review by Doug DeVita

There is only one Carol Channing, and there is only one performer who does her justice. In fact, Richard Skipper's impersonation of the legendary diva is the only one sanctioned by Channing herself, and one need only attend a performance of An Evening with Carol Channing Starring Richard Skipper to find out why.

To begin with, to call Skipper's performance an impersonation is an injustice to both the performer and the star herself. Skipper inhabits the persona of Carol Channing so completely that it becomes nearly impossible to distinguish between the two. The voice is a dead-on match, the physicality is extraordinarily accurate, the innocent wide-eyed stares that mask the lethal comic timing are all in place, and the show that he has constructed is a perfect showcase for the unique fizz that made, and has kept, Channing a star for decades. And it is all done with such love, respect, and grace that any notions of a campy, drag performance are quickly dispelled -- it is soon obvious that the entertainment being put before them is the real thing: a genuine tribute to a genuine star created and performed by another genuine star talent.

Dressed simply in a beaded red gown, loaded down with enough shiny baubles to fund a small nation, and wearing a huge, contagious grin, Skipper performed all of Channing's standards (Little Girl From Little Rock, Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend, Before The Parade Passes By, and of course, Hello, Dolly!, among others), ably accompanied by musical director Jon Delfin. There were also standards made famous by others that were here given a highly individual spin, as well as a few lesser-known numbers that were performed with that special Channing gloss. Interspersed throughout were charming anecdotes, elegantly scathing references to other performers and career setbacks (the comment about the film version of Hello, Dolly! was priceless, topped only by the star's reaction to the burst of laughter the line got), and hilarious answers to questions from the audience.

An Evening with Carol Channing Starring Richard Skipper is one of the most highly polished productions of this kind out there. Infused with heart while retaining a sharp sense of Broadway style and electricity, it was an hour-long love fest between a star and her audience. It didn't matter that the real Carol Channing wasn't up there on the stage, because in so many ways that defy logic and reason, and even the laws of time and space, she really, truly was there, where (s)he belongs.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: N/A
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2004 Doug DeVita