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?