Friday, June 13, 2008

This 'Dolly' isn't a clone, he's an admirer

Friday, June 13, 2008

In a manner of speaking, Carol Channing is doing "Hello, Dolly!" one more time.
Only Richard Skipper will be standing in -- and singing and performing -- for her. Skipper is by trade a Carol Channing impersonator.

"Not a female impersonator," he emphasizes. "Not a drag queen," he insists. "I'm an actor who's not just playing Carol Channing, but Carol Channing as that meddlesome matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi in Jerry Herman's famous musical."

This one-night concert of "Hello, Dolly!" is a benefit for the ReVision Theatre of Asbury Park, a new professional company "dedicated to producing invigorating theater with a fresh new perspective." Having a man perform as Channing certainly supports the mission statement.

Skipper says that on Saturday night, he'll be "off-book" -- meaning he'll have memorized his lines and songs -- and so will his co-star, Charles Karel, who plays Horace Vandergelder (the object of Dolly's affection). Those portraying the other characters will carry their scripts on stage, where an orchestra will sit as well. Lest it all sound too Spartan, Skipper says "a generous choir and chorus of 125 voices" will back up the proceedings.

Though he lives in Sparkill, N.Y., Skipper grew up on a tobacco farm in Conway, N.C., to a father who was one of 10 children, and a mother who was the oldest of 16.

"And nobody in the whole family had a bit of interest in show business. I learned it all from watching variety shows on TV in the era when those were on," says the 47-year-old.

While he was in middle school, a local acting teacher gave him voice lessons in exchange for lawn work. At 13, Skipper made a vow that he'd move to New York in five years, and indeed did, on the fifth anniversary of the oath. Some stock jobs followed, though his friends constantly told him he should do something with his ability to mimic stars' voices.

"Bette Davis, Judy Garland, Lucille Ball and Phyllis Diller, among others," he says. "The one everyone seemed to like best, though, was Carol Channing. They liked that I wasn't making fun of her, but really wanted to sound like her."

So, reluctantly, Skipper acquired a wardrobe worthy of Channing, did meticulous research on her life, and forged an act.

When Channing was announced to perform at Carnegie Hall in 1994, a pianist friend of Skipper's said he was playing the after-party, and that Skipper should come dressed as Channing and meet his inspiration.

"I agonized on whether or not I should chance it," he says. "Then I finally decided I would. I figured, if she doesn't like what I'm doing, I'll never do it again."

He went to the party, approached her, and she asked balefully, "How long have you been impersonating me?" Says Skipper, "And when I said, 'Well, who says you're not impersonating me?' she screamed with delight. I knew at that moment I had her."

When Channing asked him about himself, Skipper stayed in character, and instead gave Channing's own biographical details, down to the name of a classmate she had in fourth grade. "That's when she said, 'Let me see you do your act,' and my pianist friend and I were ready."
Channing gave her blessing. "She told me that others she'd seen impersonate her had been nasty, mean and vicious. 'This,' she said, 'is a valentine.' And that's kept me going ever since."

Peter Filichia may be reached at or (973) 392-5995.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

PLAYBILL ONLINE: Skipper, Karel, Cates, Weitzer and More to Star in Hello, Dolly! Benefit

Famed Carol Channing "tribute artist" Richard Skipper will star in a one-night-only benefit performance of Hello, Dolly! at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park, NJ.

Hello, Dolly! Benefit Cast Announced with Broadway Stars

June 3, 2008

Broadway Stars among the Full Cast of
Richard Skipper as CAROL CHANNING IN

Saturday, June 14th at 8:00 PM
A Special One Night Benefit Performance at the Paramount Theatre

Asbury Park, NJ – The full cast and crew has been announced for ReVision Theatre’s one night only benefit production of Richard Skipper as Carol Channing in Hello, Dolly! at the Paramount Theatre on the evening of Saturday, June 14th at 8 pm. The production will be directed by Thomas Morrissey, choreographed by Connor Gallagher, and musical directed by John Fischer.

Richard Skipper, a tribute artist, will play Carol Channing in the title role of Dolly Levi Gallagher. This is the first time in the United States a man will be playing the lead role. Charles Karel (Milk and Honey, Dear World, & Zorba), who was in the original Broadway cast of Hello, Dolly!, will be playing Horace Vandergelder. Kristy Cates (Wicked, Jerry Springer) will be playing Irene Malloy. Jim Weitzer (Little Women, Phantom) and Chris Gunn (Little Women, Jerry Springer) will be taking on the roles of Cornelius Hackl and Barnaby Tucker, respectively. Minnie Fay will be played by Jenna Coker-Jones (Evil Dead The Musical). Anne Kissel (Ernestina), Jack Hallett (Rudolph), Hernando Umana (Ambrose), Brooke Wallace (Ermengarde), and Gary Mottola (Judge) round out the supporting roles.

The show will feature ten professional dancers and a singing ensemble of twenty-two. Hello, Dolly! will also feature a chorus of local talent from the Arcadian Chorale under the direction of Marina Alexander.

The production designers include Dawn von Suskil (Set Designer), George Hansel (Lighting Designer), and Linda Delaney (Costume Coordinator).

Tickets are available online now at or by calling 732-455-3059. Tickets for Premium Seats are priced at $50.00. $25.00 and $15.00 seats are also available.

With music and lyrics by Jerry Herman and book by Michael Stewart, Hello Dolly! is one of the most popular musicals of all time. This touching musical is based on Thorton Wilder’s The Matchmaker and is about Dolly Levi who puts herself up as a candidate for marriage when she falls in love with a wealthy businessman, Horace Vandergelder. With unforgettable songs (Before the Parade Passes By, Put on Your Sunday Clothes, and Hello, Dolly!) and unforgettable dancing, this musical will be fun for the entire family. It ran on Broadway for 2,844 performances at the St. James Theatre with Carol Channing in the title role. Carol Channing went on to perform Dolly Levi for the next 30 years becoming a staple in American Musical Theatre.

Richard Skipper for more than a decade he has been paying tribute to Ms. Channing in a host of original shows which have been performed in New York and all over the world. Richard Skipper is a two-time winner of the MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabaret and Clubs) Award, a winner of the Back Stage Bistro Award for Outstanding Achievement in Impersonation, and the 2006 recipient of The IGCITA (International Guild of Celebrity and Tribute Artists) Clony Award for Outstanding Tribute to a Legend in Las Vegas. Other career highlights have included appearances at Carnegie Hall, long running engagements at Trump's Taj Mahal and The Hilton Hotel in Atlantic City, engagements at Casino Windsor and The Windsor Hilton Hotel in Windsor, Ontario, The Friars Club, the Russian Tea Room, Tavern on the Green, Le Cirque, and an appearance on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Richard Skipper's work has been endorsed and supported by Carol Channing herself. Carol Channing wrote, “. . . the first time ever I have been shown with so much love, respect, and polish. Richard Skipper is a true musical comedy star! He is fabulous as me!”

This performance will benefit ReVision Theatre’s summer mainstage musical (which will be announced at the event).

ReVision Theatre is a non-profit 501(c)3 professional regional theatre company dedicated to producing invigorating theatre with a fresh new perspective reaching the diverse community of Asbury Park and Monmouth County. ReVision Theatre produces reinventions of previously produced classics, overlooked or forgotten work in a new way, and new work with a fresh voice. The company serves as a home for local artists and writers. ReVision Theatre also believes in the importance of theatre education and teaches children and adult theatre classes. ReVision Theatre produces readings, workshops, cabarets, concerts, and mainstage productions.

Visit or for tickets or for more information.

CONTACT: Stephen Bishop Seely

Fast Facts:

Who: ReVision Theatre
David E. Leidholdt, Thomas Morrissey, and Stephen Bishop Seely
Producing Artistic Directors
PO BOX 973
Asbury Park, New Jersey 07712

What: A One Night Only Benefit Performance of
Richard Skipper as
Carol Channing in
Hello, Dolly!
Music and Lyrics by Jerry Herman
Book by Michael Stewart
Directed by Thomas Morrissey
Choreographed by Connor Gallagher
Cast to includes Charles Karel, Kristy Cates, Jim Weitzer, Chris Gunn, Jenna Coker-Jones, Anne Kissel, Brooke Wallace, Hernando Umana, Jack Hallett, and Gary Mottola

Where: The Paramount Theatre on the Boardwalk in Asbury Park
1300 Ocean Avenue
Asbury Park, New Jersey 07712

When: Saturday, June 14, 2008 at 8:00 PM

How: Buy tickets ($50, $25, and $15) online at
Or call 732-455-3059