Richard Skipper as Carol Channing

 

Stephanie DonaldAlmost every member of the LGBT community has, at one time or another, seen some camp drag-queen trying to hack their way through an imitation of a famous Broadway actress but seldom do we see a true artiste like Richard Skipper. Skipper could never be regarded as a drag-queen in any sense of the word. He has the Carol Channing seal of approval!

His “one-woman” show in off-Broadway opened on Wednesday, January 12 to majority rave reviews as he dazzled audiences with his energy and paid his special homage to the grand dame of stage and screen; Carol Channing.

When asked if he had either a fascination or just a talent for doing Channing’s character originally, he indicated that the origins of doing Carol Channing came from an ornate talent for doing her character. “I had theCarol Channing & Richard Skipper talent for being able to mimic her for lack of a better word”, he said cordially. “I would not go out choosing to perform as Carol Channing. It followed me and pursued me until I gave into it!”

Skipper has a most impressive resume not to mention that Carol Channing herself has given Richard Skipper her own approval of his portrayal of her. In 1994 during the last revival of “Hello, Dolly”, Skipper reluctantly put together a show based around his portrayal of Channing.

“As fate would have it, a couple of weeks before it was scheduled to open I got the chance to perform my show for Carol Channing and I went in with the attitude that if she didn’t like it I would never do it again! I mean this! And God Bless her! She said it was the first time she’d been shown with love, respect and polish! She also said that most people impersonating her are mean and vicious and that (Skipper’s portrayal) was the first time she had been shown with that kind of love.” The honor in Skipper’s voice was unmistakable.

“She basically gave me her endorsement because I told her I would not open the show without her endorsement”, he commented. “She said ‘take the gauntlet and run with it’!”

Through the years, Richard Skipper has not only built a superb career from his portrayal of Channing, but his affection for her as a person and her dedication to the LGBT community and charitable causes and he has become so melded and protective over Channing that an attack on her character elicits and immediate response from Skipper.

Skipper cautions that his show is not aimed at the LGBT audience and not a “drag” show and he’s not a “female impersonator”. “I’m an actor and no matter how hard I work I will never be Carol Channing”, he comments off-hand. “Most drag shows are over-the-top and can be mean. This show is for the older straight community…for those who grew up loving Carol Channing. It’s my Valentine to her, so to speak. If people are looking for a performance that gets as close to Carol as you can possibly get then they’ll walk away happy.”

Richard Skipper as Carol ChanningFor a man who is just about to turn 50 years old, Skipper must love what he does because his tribute to Channing runs two shows a day which would be hard on anyone. This isn’t a nightclub performance but a Broadway-style one-person how with high production quality wardrobe and scene changes that require Skipper to maintain a “peak” performance for every second he appears on stage and considering he is the entire show; that’s no mean feat.

When asked about his energy level, Skipper immediately deflected the remark back to the grand dame herself by complimenting Channing and saying, “God Bless Carol, though! She’s going to be 90 and she’s still going as strong as ever and that’s what I aspire to! She’s a role-model for me! You won’t see a performer like Carol Channing ever again.”


Skipper also noted that Channing had a career-long distaste for the high ticket prices that Broadway traditionally charges and believed that shows were for everyone. He emphaticallyRichard Skipper shares this opinion with his idol and believes the troubles with current Broadway productions stem from high production costs and the inability of most people to be able to afford to see the shows currently running there.

He believes that his off-Broadway production, currently running at the St. Luke’s Theatre at 306 West 46th Street in New York City is just a warm-up for things to come.

One thing is for sure and that’s Richard Skipper is a one-of-a-kind and Richard Skipper as Carol Channing is sure to delight the senses and keep you filled with love for that unique performer who has graced us with her presence for more than 50 years on the stage and screen.

That makes Richard Skipper just as precious as Carol Channing herself and we wish him a long-running show that brings him the acclaim he deserves as he pays homage to the performer he loves so much.

You can read about Richard Skipper and his career at Richard Skipper.com

 

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