Friday, June 5, 2009


BOB EGAN ENTERTAINMENT in association with ELEGANT DIAMOND PRODUCTIONS presents CAROL CHANNING: A CELEBRATION Starring Richard Skipper! Musical Direction by Jon Webber, with a five piece band and back-up singers. In this intimate evening with one of Broadway s greatest treasures, Skipper takes his audience back to a time of clean wholesome entertainment, featuring highlights from two of Channing' s greatest hits, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Hello Dolly! One performance only, July 5th, 2008 at 8:00 pm.
Tim McLoone s Supper Club, 1200 Ocean Avenue, Asbury Park, NJ. Reservations: (732) 774-1155.
I am returning to Asbury Park by popular demand after performing as Carol Channing as Dolly Levi in Hello Dolly! at Asbury Park's historic Paramount Theatre in a special benefit performance for ReVision Theatre last year and Tim McLoone's SOLD OUT SHOW last August. Other recent highlights this year include a successful run at the Iguana VIP Lounge in NYC; REDEEMER EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH in The Bronx in a sold out show with MAC Award winner Diana Templeton and Anthony Santelmo, Jr.;
ALVIN AILEY AMERICAN DANCE THEATER STUDIOS, DANCERS OVER 40 Celebrates a Wonderful Year tribute to Gower Champion, featuring David Hartman, Marge Champion, Lee Roy Reams, and dancers from Champion s Broadway shows.

With Channing s personal endorsement, I have taken my tribute from Manhattan to Las Vegas and San Francisco and all points in between, summoning the legend's spirit, her signature style, and her sense of connection with the audience. This is not a drag show and it is not campy!
It is an interactive performance of audience pleasing, critically acclaimed theater.

Carol Channing herself says, . . . this is the first time ever I have been shown with so much love, respect, and polish Richard Skipper is a TRUE MUSICAL COMEDY STAR!
What I try to recreate are Channing's memorable shows in Vegas and on Broadway, in which the diva proved she could do a whole lot more than just diamond-happy Lorelei Lee.
I have won two MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabaret) Awards, the Back Stage Bistro Award and was named one of the top cabaret performers by Cabaret Hotline.
I have also been awarded the coveted IGCITA (International Guild of Celebrity Impersonators and Tribute Artists) CLONEY award for Outstanding Tribute to a Legend, and has appeared with the great lady herself at the Palace of Fine Arts. For more information about other performances, tributes and awards, visit Richard s website at

Legendary entertainer Carol Channing sang a familiar tune in Murrieta last week, belting out "Hello, Dolly" with the help of students from Lisa J. Mails Elementary School.
Channing shared her music, performed a little soft-shoe and did some high leg kicks during two assemblies for the kindergarten-through-seventh-grade students.
Then she talked about the importance of arts in education.

"I'm thrilled to be asked to be here," said the 88-year-old singer and actress as she blew kisses to the students.

Channing is best known for her roles in "Hello, Dolly" and "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes."
Her visit to Mails, a school that emphasizes performing and visual arts, was orchestrated by former California Secretary of Education David Long, also a former Riverside County schools superintendent. The two met when Long was education secretary.
Now Long is helping Channing and her husband, Harry Kullijian, carry their message about the importance of arts education across the state. Channing and Kullijian have established a foundation to promote the arts in schools.

Arts education is like fertilizer for students' brains, Channing said. "It opens their minds to every other subject."
Long said the arts are a key component of education, even in difficult times. Funding for arts programs has diminished in recent years because of budget cuts.

"Even in these times of financial crisis, opportunities exist," he said. "It's not that we have to build new schools. It's a reconfiguration" of programs to incorporate the arts.

Many of the Mails students had never heard of Channing before her visit was announced.

Teachers introduced them to the Tony Award-winner's work before the event, said Assistant Principal Garrett Corduan.

The school's Stage Note Singers and middle school choir performed for Channing, who also visited a band class, shook hands with students and signed autographs.

"It's just a really inspirational day for everyone," Corduan said.
Friday's assemblies were in the multipurpose room of McElhinney Middle School, which shares a campus with Mails Elementary.
McElhinney, which formally opens in August, also has an emphasis on the arts.

Angie Phetbenjakul, a 13-year-old seventh-grader, performed with the middle school choir Friday, singing one of Channing's signature tunes, "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend."

"It was amazing," Phetbenjakul said of the experience. "She's such a wonderful lady."

By the screams and squeals of the students from Lisa J. Mails Elementary School on Friday, one would have thought the big star headed to the stage was Miley Cyrus or one of the Jonas Brothers.

But the loud applause was for Carol Channing,88-year-old Broadway legend, who visited the campus as she travels around the state to promote arts education.
"You're going to be smarter than any students who don't have arts," Channing said at the school, which emphasizes performing and arts. "It fertilizes your brain. You can look forward to a much happier life."

Channing, a three-time Tony Award winner, spoke in her still distinctive voice during two assemblies at the adjoining Dorothy McElhinney Middle School.
"My theory is that the arts are only the re-creation of what was already created," Channing told the children. "Each one of you will re-create what has already been created, but you will see it in your own, individual way."
The visit was arranged by David Long, former Riverside County and Lake Elsinore school superintendent.
Long met Channing when he was the state secretary of education and served with her on the California Arts Council.

Long said Mails' arts-driven program can be replicated in schools throughout the state.
"For an all-inclusive comprehensive education, arts is part of that," Long said.

Channing was accompanied by her fourth husband, Harry Kullijian, who was her junior high school sweetheart.
The couple reconnected in 2003 after many years apart.

Kullijian said they are going around the state hoping children in every school can have art.

The couple also has a foundation dedicated to returning arts education to public schools in California.
"To see all of you shows what we've been fighting for," Channing told the students.

Mails Assistant Principal Garrett Corduan said having Channing visit should motivate the students.
"Look across this room ---- there's some talent here," he said. "They can see that their talent will come out, and it starts in school. For me, it's just an inspiration for them.

"To see her and see she's so willing and giving to the students is amazing."

In preparation for Channing's visit, students researched her life via the Internet, Corduan said. Long was impressed that all of the children recognize Channing and greeted her warmly.
"It's a teachable moment for students," he said. "It brings arts in all forms together."

Both assemblies started with musical performances while art students made two banners welcoming Channing to the campus.

Channing ended the first assembly by singing one of her signature songs, "Hello Dolly."

The other song Channing is widely known for, "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend," was performed by the middle school choir to open the second assembly.
So why did Channing make the trip to Murrieta from Palm Springs?

"They asked me," she said. "This is my reward. I've been working for years to get arts in schools. This is the school everyone is watching."
Americans for the Arts is patting the new president on the back for the commitment to the arts he has displayed in his first 100 days. The cultural advocacy group, which lobbied hard to save $50 million in arts funding in the recently passed economic recovery package, issued a press release from its president Robert L. Lynch, lauding the president’s progress so far, and encouraging him to "build on these initial budget requests to secure even higher funding levels to address the needs of the arts and arts education community."
President Obama released his FY 2010 budget request to the Congress. It includes $38.16 million for the US Department of Education’s (DOE) Arts in Education program.
This is distinctly different from years past; at one time, previous administrations proposed zeroing out this program altogether.

Quality too good to pass up
Broadway thrives despite ailing economy

Bright lights, big tally

Legit pundits have been scratching their heads all spring over Broadway's resilience in a down economy. But the answer may simply be that audiences found the quality of this season's slate too good to pass up.

Attention on the Gotham legit landscape was heightened by the unusually high number of critical hits and the platoon of stars onstage just when a profile boost was needed. New Yorkers might be tightening their belts in terms of restaurant, shopping and travel choices, but must-see productions remain an affordable luxury, not to mention a necessity to keep up with the culture cognoscenti.

Take Yasmina Reza's play "God of Carnage," a razor-toothed comedy about the savagery beneath the surface of middle-class complacency.

Propelled by incisive turns from James Gandolfini, Marcia Gay Harden, Jeff Daniels and Hope Davis -- all four Tony-nominated -- Matthew Warchus' production has been playing to capacity crowds since it opened in March, sparking editorial pieces about everything from clafouti to Brooklyn's Cobble Hill neighborhood.
(Translator Christopher Hampton relocated the play from its original Paris setting for its U.S. premiere.)

The season's blockbuster musical hit, "Billy Elliot," also tapped into the zeitgeist, its bittersweet tale of a working-class kid whose dreams elevate him beyond hardscrabble reality finding fresh resonance as the country was plunged into recession.
The excitement generated by "West Side Story" and "Hair," two iconic musicals long absent from Broadway, suggests not only a hungry fan base eager to revisit beloved shows from their youth but also a new audience connecting to those era-defining shows.

In recent years, every season has a mega-budget hit tuner (this year, "Billy Elliot") competing for Tony supremacy with an unconventional underdog.

The latter role went this season to the emotionally charged "Next to Normal," about a bipolar suburban mom and her frayed family. After a mixed reception in its early 2008 premiere Off Broadway, the show was significantly retooled and warmly embraced by critics this spring; its commercial foothold has been growing as word of mouth builds.
Among other new tuners, DreamWorks cooked up competition for the Disney market with its enjoyable if uneven "Shrek the Musical"; Dolly Parton's songs and a trio of engaging leads were crowd-pleasing strengths in "9 to 5," a tuner that otherwise failed to punch the clock; and '80s cheesefest "Rock of Ages" proved that the much-maligned jukebox genre could be a guilt-free pleasure.

Special events with stars also contributed to swell the seasonal coffers, notably Liza Minnelli, who showed she could still deliver the goods in "Liza's at the Palace," and Will Ferrell, providing a cathartic farewell to the former White House tenant in "You're Welcome America. A Final Night With George W Bush."

Holiday entry "White Christmas" was a synthetic approximation of Golden Age Hollywood, but audiences flocked like snowflakes to the limited engagement.

If no other new play matched "Carnage" as an instant sensation, there was a deluge of smartly conceived revivals to draw audiences.

Kristin Scott Thomas led a penetrating new look at "The Seagull," hailed by many vet theatergoers as the best Chekhov production of their lifetimes; John Lithgow, Dianne Wiest, Patrick Wilson and Katie Holmes channeled Greek tragedy in a boldly non-naturalistic interpretation of Arthur Miller's "All My Sons"; Daniel Radcliffe shook off the boyhood cloak of "Harry Potter," getting emotionally and physically naked in "Equus"; and the trio of Jeremy Piven, Raul Esparza and Elisabeth Moss made a tangy meal of a minor David Mamet morsel in "Speed-the-Plow."
Those fall entries were matched by a second wave of strong remounts in the spring.

The most commercially buoyant was Noel Coward's ectoplasmic comedy "Blithe Spirit," with Angela Lansbury, Rupert Everett, Jayne Atkinson and Christine Ebersole.
Geoffrey Rush's tragicomic clowning brought life to Eugene Ionesco's 1962 absurdist comedy about a dying monarch, "Exit the King," mining a rich vein of contempo political parallels.
And Samuel Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" was ushered back to Broadway after a half-century in a haunting production with the superlative cast of Nathan Lane, Bill Irwin, John Goodman and John Glover.

Two plays dating back almost 20 years but presented for the first time on the Main Stem and greeted as significant discoveries were Horton Foote's "Dividing the Estate" and Richard Greenberg's "The American Plan," both casting a minor-key spell in delicately nuanced stagings.But some lauded shows struggled to sustain an audience amid the quality glut.

Bartlett Sher's transcendent staging of "Joe Turner's Come and Gone" failed to expand the traditionally limited Broadway audience for August Wilson plays, while "Mary Stuart," with Janet McTeer and Harriet Walter, has initially fallen short of commercial expectations. Also staged by Warchus, Alan Ayckbourn's melancholy comic trilogy "The Norman Conquests" was a slow starter, although producers are confident that by extending the engagement with extra marathon days they can eke out a profit.

There were also some swift exits and critical punching bags. John Leguizamo, Cedric the Entertainer and Haley Joel Osment barely opened in Mamet's "American Buffalo" before the closing notice went up, and while opinion ranged across the love-or-loathe spectrum for Eugene O'Neill's "Desire Under the Elms," with Brian Dennehy, Carla Gugino and Pablo Schreiber, the curiosity was insufficient to galvanize audiences.

Some of the season's most withering reviews went to a loopy rethink of "Hedda Gabler," with Mary-Louise Parker in eccentric overdrive; a moribund revival of Hampton's "The Philanthropist," with a distancing lead perf from Matthew Broderick; "Impressionism," a limp mid-life romance with intellectual aspirations that served as a clunky vehicle for Jeremy Irons and Joan Allen; and a leaden screen-to-stage transfer of Nazi spoof "To Be or Not to Be," in which the Lubitsch touch and the laughs were AWOL.

A low-wattage "Guys and Dolls," with Oliver Platt and Lauren Graham, also missed the mark, its characters and comedy swallowed by projection-heavy staging. Ditto a bloated musicalization of Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities," a numbingly earnest "Les Miz"-wannabe marooned in an outmoded 1980s poperetta sensibility.
Jane Fonda's Rialto return after 46 years yielded admiring personal reviews, but endorsement of Moises Kaufman's drama "33 Variations" was generally cooler.

Similarly, Frank Langella's work in "A Man for All Seasons" commanded respect, but Robert Bolt's 1961 play now seems a hagiographic chore, while David Hyde Pierce's mellow charm and effortless comic timing made the quaint 1934 artifact "Accent on Youth" palatable, if not quite justifying its return to Broadway.
One of the season's commercial disappointments looks to be Neil LaBute's "Reasons to Be Pretty," a scalding examination of relationships with an uncharacteristic emotional charge from a writer not known for his compassion. The play's near-unanimous raves have so far failed to stir a sizable audience in such a competitive field.
Along with underachievers like the pedestrian Holocaust drama "Irena's Vow," teen tuner "13," insider joke-a-thon "[title of show]" and maudlin musical two-hander "The Story of My Life," the LaBute transfer seemed to suggest that producers may be misjudging the marketplace in their eagerness to upgrade intimate shows more traditionally suited to Off Broadway or regional stages.

Want to let you know that High 5 will be performing at 9:30 PM at Dukes Ocean Grill on Thurs., June 11.

The good news is that there is no charge and no cover and the food is fabulous if you come hungry. There's even a revolving sushi bar! Reservations are not necessary.

Dukes Ocean Grill
37 Rt. 303
Tappan, NY 10983

Performing Arts Center lost $322G last year

By Keith Eddings • The Journal News • May 28, 2009

WHITE PLAINS - The decision to remake the city's Performing Arts Center into a stage for homegrown, professional musicals has failed to bring in the audiences needed to reverse the theater's deficits, financial documents released this week show.

The PAC lost $322,000 in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2008, according to a disclosure statement it filed with the federal Internal Revenue Service. It ended the year with $1,333 on hand and $708,412 in debt.
The return was due in November, but the theater filed it earlier this month after receiving two extensions, making the data nearly a year old. The theater has not released information about its expenses and revenues over the 11 months since its last reporting period ended, but its actions since then suggest the losses are continuing. Last month, it postponed the opening of its last musical for the season - "Hello, Dolly!" - and announced it might rethink its mission again.

"With the economy faltering, and in my effort to be fiscally prudent, it is necessary to step back and re-evaluate our plans," Jack Batman, the theater's $150,000-a-year executive producer, said in an April 21 statement, after announcing that "Hello, Dolly!" would be rescheduled.

The approach of summer suggests the musical could be canceled altogether. Batman could not be reached. John Ioris, a local businessman who is chairman of the theater's board, did not return a telephone call.

Fiscal troubles at the 417-seat theater are expected to deepen today when the Common Council, citing the city's own budget problems, has said it will end the $100,000 subsidy the theater has received every year since it opened in 2003.

The theater's failure would leave a significant hole in one of the city's biggest malls - where two major national retailers recently pulled out - and set back the city's hope to remake itself as a regional cultural - as well as a retail - center.

The theater was built for the city by Louis Cappelli as part of his approvals to build City Center, and has become a critical success, a cultural cornerstone and economic engine for White Plains despite its difficulties.

Cappelli has given or loaned the theater at least $400,000 over a recent two-year period. On Tuesday, he said he would give it another $100,000 if the Common Council restores its $100,000 subsidy.
"It's a testimony to the vibrancy that we all tried to create in downtown White Plains, and I stand ready with the council to match a cash contribution," Cappelli said. "I challenge the city to do that so we can assist these people, and we should."
Through an aide, Mayor Joseph Delfino said he had no comment.

Adam Bradley, the Democratic candidate for mayor, said the city might search for another arts group to fill the space the theater occupies at City Center if it fails.

The $321,852 the theater lost in its last fiscal year reverses the $66,000 surplus it earned the year before, when it scaled back productions as it rethought its mission. Nonprofit community theaters often lose less money when they're dark than when they're operating.
The theater sold 28,000 tickets in 2008.

Whether the theater's bottom line has been black or red, its budgets have been heavily infused with corporate and city grants from the outset, which is common with nonprofit theaters. The $1.3 million it took in last year included nearly $500,000 in gifts besides the city's $100,000. It earned another $590,000 from ticket sales and $129,000 from renting the stage and selling ads in its programs, according to its financial disclosure form.

Expenses totaled nearly $1.7 million, including $1.1 million for salaries and benefits.
The theater has only seven full-time employees, but its decision to stage its own productions rather than import them added dozens of actors and production staff to its part-time payroll.

"They're all struggling, like the rest of America," Linda Jacobs, a spokeswoman for Theater Communications Group, said about the 500 professional, nonprofit theaters the organization represents nationwide. "It's really a slippery slope for all of us now."
In Praise Of Broadway's Orchestrators
By Susan Stamberg

In the world of Broadway musicals, nobody leaves the theater humming the orchestrations.
But without the orchestrations, the songs would just be lonely little tunes. The Library of Congress recently convened a symposium on some of Broadway's greatest orchestrators, many of whom remain little-known. Ever hear of Sid Ramin, Jonathan Tunick, Don Walker, Russell Bennett or Ralph Burns? Exactly.

But those are the men who orchestrated West Side Story, Gypsy, A Chorus Line, Sweeney Todd, Hello Dolly and South Pacific. The men who decided which song should start with trumpets, and which one needs some violas. And they wrote the overtures, weaving together the various tunes the shows present.

"People think the composer did it," says Steven Suskin, author of The Sound of Broadway Music: A Book of Orchestrators and Orchestrations. "But usually, the composers are so busy with other things that they just don't."

Gypsy, which hit Broadway in 1959, was revolutionary. The music was written by Jule Styne, but orchestrators Sid Ramin and Red Ginzler wrote the overture for lots of brass and winds. Musicians came from the big swing bands.

Before Gypsy, the sound of Broadway orchestrations was exemplified by South Pacific. Russell Bennett, who was Rodgers and Hammerstein's favorite orchestrator, scored that show. Jonathan Tunick, who orchestrates for Steven Sondheim, says Bennett loved lush violins and pure, rich sound.
Conductor Rob Fisher says the South Pacific score is gorgeous.

"He uses horns right at the beginning that sound like flowers opening," Fisher says. "And then, when the Bali Hai theme starts, the strings are soaring way up over it in a way only Bennett knows how to do."

Arranger Red Ginzler once used instruments that were less than lovely. Tunick, who studied with Ginzler, calls him the greatest theater orchestrator of all time. Tunick describes how Ginzler handled a men's-room scene in the show How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. A chorus sings, while shaving.

"Red thought of the idea of putting the melody on a mass of kazoos making buzzing sounds like electric shavers," Tunick says. "One of the hallmarks of his genius was his wit and his ability to translate humor into music."

A great singer makes the orchestrator's life easy. But get a bad singer — or non-singer, really — and it's a different story. Take one of the stars of My Fair Lady.
"Rex Harrison was a fine actor," Jeremy Lang says. "But he had a lot of trouble singing."

Lang's grandfather, Philip J. Lang, was the orchestrator behind this story. "Grandfather needed to do a lot of writing around his voice, as orchestrators frequently do. Arrange it in the instruments such that Harrison could just speak it as melodic cadence but wouldn't actually hit any notes," Lang says. "After the music rehearsal, Rex Harrison went over and embraced my grandfather and said, 'Thanks to you, I can sing.' "

Ramin, now 90, orchestrated West Side Story with Irwin Kostal. Ramin doesn't play any instrument. But he says he hears them all, in his mind's ear.

He says that when Leonard Bernstein, who wrote the music for West Side Story, handed him the music for "I Feel Pretty," he heard it right away.

"We know 'I Feel Pretty' is not going to be for brass," Ramin says. "It's going to be feminine, light, happy. And what pops into a person's head? Strings. Violins. High woodwinds."
Orchestrators don't begin working until after the rehearsals, when the show is set. So masses of notes must be written quickly. Different orchestrators might work on different songs — even parts of songs — for a single show.

For A Chorus Line, Ralph Burns was called in to write just the extra, final chorus.

"His big touch was that after the word 'One,' [he did] what we call a shake, with the full orchestra shaking the note," arranger and conductor Ted Sperling says. "A big harp glissando up and down at the same time amplifies that feeling of excitement ... and it put it over the top at the end."

And with that, the show's over. And an orchestrator made sure you knew it.

Danny La Rue dies aged 81
Danny La Rue, the cabaret entertainer once described by Bob Hope as "the most glamorous woman in the world", died yesterday aged 81.

By Anita Singh, Showbusiness Editor
Published:02 Jun 2009

He had been suffering from cancer and died peacefully in his sleep at his home in Kent following a short illness, a spokesman said. His assistant and "beloved companion", Annie Galbraith, was by his side.

In a career spanning 60 years, La Rue was a star of the West End stage and the nation's favourite pantomime dame. He was said to be Britain's highest-paid entertainers in the 1960s and drew huge audiences for his television appearances.
He was the first female impersonator to appear at the Royal Variety Performance in front of the Queen.

La Rue disliked the term "drag artist" and preferred to be known as a "comic in a frock". He described his style of humour as "cheeky but clean", explaing: "I'm a great believer in wit without vulgarity - only inarticulate people swear because they can't find the right words."

Born Daniel Patrick Carroll in Cork, Ireland, La Rue moved to England with his family at the age of nine. He developed his act during his time with the Royal Navy, where he took part in revue shows, and began his career in repertory theatre before moving into cabaret alongside the likes of Barbara Windsor.

The success of his act led to him opening a West End nightclub in Hanover Square in 1964. Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon were regular patrons, alongside such showbusiness luminaries as Noel Coward, Judy Garland and Zsa Zsa Gabor. Coward described La Rue as "the most professional, the most witty and the most utterly charming man in the business".

La Rue made his West End debut in Come Spy With Me at the Whitehall Theatre, which ran from 1970-1972 and was the first of many stage hits. The Danny La Rue Show played all over the world, and he proved a particular hit in Australia where he spent half the working year. He is thought to have made theatrical history in 1982 when he played Dolly Levi in Hello Dolly! at the Prince of Wales theatre in London, the first time a man had taken a leading female role in a major production.

In 2002, he was made an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for his charitable work and services to the entertainment industry. He continued to work well into his 70s, taking time off after suffering a stroke in 2006 but returning in 2007 with Hello Danny, an autobiographical show staged at the Benidorm Palace in Spain.

His former agent, Brian Shaw, said: "Danny was a true showbusiness legend. He was a man of real class and real style. He had no-one before him and there was no-one since. It is just a very sad day."

FEATURED ENTERTAINER OF THE WEEK: LEE LESSACK http://www.leelessack.comMac & Bistro Award Wining Recording Artist, LEE LESSACK, performs his critically acclaimed concert tribute: "Too Marvelous For Words: The Songs of Johnny Mercer".

"Rare, superb, and thoroughly enjoyable!" - Rex Reed

June 6th @ 8:30 PM - Harlan's (New Hope, PA) • Reservations: (215) 862-5225
June 7th @ 7:30 PM - The Castle (Tarrytown, NY) • Reservations: (914) 631-3646
June 8th & 14th @ 9:30 PM - Metropolitan Room (NYC) • Reservations: (212) 206-0440

With grateful XOXOXs for your support!

Richard Skipper

Follow me on Twitter @RichardSkipper

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