Richard Skipper as Carol Channing
Richard Skipper as Carol Channing
Celebrity impersonation is an art form unto itself. It isn't enough to look and sound like the person you're aping, and even if you've got every mannerism and tic of the celebrity down pat, that doesn't necessarily make it art. It's only when an impersonator puts the whole package together and gives it his or her own spin that the comically cracked mirror image has a reason to exist. Fortunately, cabaret has a glittering galaxy of these artists; they are among the most consistently successful entertainers in our world. Among the very best of them is Richard Skipper, who has been making marvelous fun of Carol Channing for years.

Skipper's new show on Monday nights at The Duplex has been extended through the end of June. His shows are significantly different from one another because he interacts with the audience so often and so effectively. It's a high-wire act, but Skipper is incredibly fast on his feet (even in heels) and, in our experience, he always gets laughs. In fact, we like him best when he kids with the audience; Carol herself was no great shakes as a singer, so hearing Skipper perform her musical theater hits, while nostalgic and amusing, doesn't quite match his real gift of taking Channing's madcap personality to a loveable extreme. That he slants his show heavily toward comedy and less so toward music suggests he has properly calculated what works and what doesn't. He also brings on talented special guests; the night we were there, Audrey Lavine and Scott Coulter performed. The show is a generous one, about 90 minutes in length. Chances are you'll love every single one of those minutes.

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Ervin Drake
Ervin Drake
There are impersonators, and then there are the real McCoys. Ervin Drake is a real McCoy. Drake, who wrote such songs as "I Believe," "Good Morning Heartache," "It Was a Very Good Year," and many other standards, recently performed some of his famous works in the MAC/ASCAP Songwriters' Showcase at The Lighthouse.

As the special guest of host Jamie deRoy, Drake shared a slew of funny, firsthand stories about the likes of Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand that had the audience utterly transfixed. What a treat this event was!

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Finally, here is some extremely heartening news about the state of cabaret in New York. First of all, Dillon's on West 54th Street is expanding its piano bar nights, and the impressive cabaret room that is also a part of Dillon's is becoming increasingly active. More and more shows are being booked into that elegant venue for runs during the summer. We'll keep you informed.

More good news: Plans are afoot for a new room on the Lower East Side, in the vicinity of East 13th Street, that will be booked by Lennie Watts. Two different cabaret acts per night are planned for the space, which is yet unnamed, and performances should begin sometime this summer. This will be a slightly upscale room with no piano bar attached. As more news becomes available, we'll fill you in.

Finally, let it be known that Regents on East 53rd Street continues to expand the number of cabaret shows taking place in its inviting environs, with acts scheduled on Monday and Tuesday nights in addition to Regents' original, once-a-week, knockout brunch show. Check it out!