Richard Skipper as Carol Channing.
BOTTOM LINE: Richard Skipper as Carol Channing. He sings her songs and does her schtick.
Richard Skipper as "Carol Channing" in Concert is a lightweight yet entertaining way to spend an hour and twenty minutes. Skipper has been portraying the legendary Carol Channing for twenty years and he has it down pat. The mannerisms, the wig, the lipstick and the big infectious smile are all there and if the photos in the lobby are any indication, he has the full backing of Ms. Channing herself. The show is like sitting in Carol Channing's living room as she tells you stories and sings all the songs that she is best known for; it's easy to forget that you are watching an impersonation rather than the real thing. Skipper talks directly to the audience and interacts with them throughout the whole show. He learns the names of some in the audience and then refers to them at times throughout the night. They feel comfortable enough to chat back to him and Skipper has a way of making what they are talking about fit seamlessly into whatever the next song might be.
All of Channing's biggest hits are in the show. Hello, Dolly and Gentleman Prefer Blondes are well represented plus a few other songs that are fun to hear. One song that came up more than once was called "Widow's Weeds" and was from a recording that Channing made in the '60s. Of all the songs that she is known for, it seemed an odd choice to be featured so prominently. However, there is no doubt that Skipper sounds just like Carol Channing every time he opens his mouth.
This show is fun and easy to watch, but I wanted more from it. It felt almost a little bit dated itself. According to Skipper's bio, he has been performing this act all over the world for a long time and I felt like it needed to be bumped up a bit for 2011. While enjoyable, it's certainly not groundbreaking.
As mentioned, there is audience participation. Everyone is asked to submit a question for "Carol Channing" and then a few times in the show a question is answered. Skipper is very quick on his feet with these impromptu questions and I wanted more time with them. It was fun to see him come up with an answer off the cuff and it gave the show the spontaneity that it seemed to be lacking at other times. If you have an issue with audience interaction, avoid the front row.
Overall, Richard Skipper as "Carol Channing" in Concert is completely entertaining. The stories about Channing's early life in the theater are interesting and the songs are fun to hear. Audiences will have a good time learning about the show biz icon, it's impossible not to a have smile on your face while listening to Carol Channing sing "Thoroughly Modern Millie"... even if Carol Channing is really Richard Skipper. It's a good song and Skipper is a good Channing.
(Richard Skipper as "Carol Channing" in Concert plays at St. Luke’s Theater, 306 West 46th Street between 8th and 9th Avenues, through February 23, 2011. Performances are Wednesdays at 2PM and 8PM. Tickets are $41.50-$66.50 and are available at telecharge.com or by calling 212.239.6200. You can check out Richard Skipper's website here.)