Review: ‘Carol Channing — The First 80 Years Are the Hardest’

Carol Channing, who created such legendary Broadway babes as Lorelei Lee and Dolly Levi, is back -- not on Broadway, but a few blocks north at Feinstein's at the Regency. Some things never change: Now a feisty and stately octogenarian, her familiar saucer-eyed smile and gravelly voice remain firmly locked in place.

Carol Channing, who created such legendary Broadway babes as Lorelei Lee and Dolly Levi, is back — not on Broadway, but a few blocks north at Feinstein’s at the Regency. Some things never change: Now a feisty and stately octogenarian, her familiar saucer-eyed smile and gravelly voice remain firmly locked in place.

A Broadway star for more than a half-century, Channing displays her durable wit, dashing versatility and a generous helping of studied showbiz savvy. Singing the Kander & Ebb sparkler, Channing proved she is still capable of serving up the old “Razzle Dazzle.” In a blazing, fire-engine red pantsuit, she looked glam and even offered a few high kicks.

Among Channing’s irreverent anecdotes, she cited Ethel Merman, who was heard to say, “Of course I know there’s a war on. I read it in Variety!” Recalling legendary entertainer Sophie Tucker as an “ample” woman, she quipped, “That means fat!”

Offering a spirited nod to vaudeville, Channing reprised Tucker’s trademark battle hymn “Some of These Days.”

With “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” Channing recalled the quest of Lorelei Lee, “who brought virginity to every man she met.”

Sans the great staircase, she re-creates a historic Broadway moment with Jerry Herman’s “Hello, Dolly!,” a role she played more than 5,000 times, proudly boasting that she never missed a performance. Invited to sing along, the enthusiastic first-night aud became a supportive chorus.

A newlywed in her mid-80s, Channing brought husband Harry Kullijian, a former high school beau, onstage for a bit of the old soft-shoe. Who said vaudeville was dead?

Carol Channing -- The First 80 Years Are the Hardest

Feinstein's at the Regency; 150 capacity; $60

Production

Presented inhouse. Opened, reviewed Oct. 11, 2005. Runs through Oct. 22.

Cast

Musical director/piano, Ken Ascher; bass, Dick Sarpola; drums, Jim Saporito.
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