Six Questions for Richard Skipper – Who This Month Celebrates…Liza Minnelli (on her Birthday!)

photo credit: Joe Marzullo

Richard Skipper knows everyone in Cabaret and almost EVERYONE in show business! and … almost everything about them, making him the perfect host for this ongoing Classic Variety/Talk Show format. Richard Skipper Celebrates his tour-de-force cabaret show where top names in musical entertainment meet to talk and perform, filled with songs, stories and recollections of lifetimes and moments in show business tomorrow Sunday, March 12, at 1:00 pm at The Laurie Beechman. His guests will be Julie Reyburn, David Sabella, Seth Sikes introducing Ameliarose Allen.

NITELIFE EXCHANGE: Hosting and producing seems to be your ‘second’ career. You truly are a cross-over multi talented entertainer running the gamut from solo to your current Richard Skipper Celebrates….. Which do you prefer?

RICHARD SKIPPER: I don’t really look at this as a “second career” as much as I do a continuation of everything I have learned up to this point in my life. I have said on more than one occasion that I am a product of ’60s and ’70s television. And with that, the genre of talk AND variety specials. I lived for those specials and THAT was the “show business” that I aspired to. I started out as an actor doing community theater in my hometown of Conway, South Carolina. I had an incredible mentor, Miss Florence Epps. She instilled in me a healthy respect of our history and what has gone before — paving the way for what we do today.

Over the course of the past ten years, I have been fortunate to interview many of the greats of this business —in all areas of the business. I also have been lucky enough to work with some of the greatest entertainers ever (both known and unknown). My series Richard Skipper Celebrates… is combining those two elements, along with my respect for the genres AND —excuse my Pollyanna nature — to celebrate positivity.

My shows encourage my audiences to celebrate each day and each other with reverence for where we’ve been.

NLE: Where were some of your most memorable performances and audiences? What about theater sizes? Largest and smallest? Have you performed internationally?

RS: Being on stage at Carnegie Hall, headlining in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, sharing a stage with Carol Channing in San Francisco, having Neil Sedaka be a guest in my show WITH Carol Channing in the audience, interviewing Lesley Ann Warren on stage to celebrate the remastered release of Cinderella [the Rodgers & HammersteinTV musical], which was a yearly highlight in my childhood, dancing with Marge Champion—-there are so many! I always hope the next show will surpass everything I have done up to this point. Internationally, I performed on a chartered cruise to Greece. I would love to take variations of this show around the world.

NLE: You have moved RSC between various venues from the more theater-like Triad, for evening shows, to, now, the Laurie Beechman dining/cabaret Weekend Brunch shows. Are you moving these shows to find your audience? I know your past two shows were sold out.

RS: Each room has its pluses and minuses. I want to say that working at The Triad was a wonderful experience. I have nothing but the utmost praise for the staff and the venue. Luckily for them, Spamilton is a HUGE HIT. It just made scheduling and getting the dates desired a little more problematic in terms of the type of entertainment event I desire to present.

It was ONLY because of scheduling that I moved to the Laurie Beechman Theatre. I LOVE everything about that room, but I love the fact that food is served there, giving my audiences a complete package. As of this writing, I am staying on at the Beechman for the next two scheduled shows. On Saturday, April 8th, we will be celebrating the birthday of E.Y. Harburg; and on May 20th, Armed Forces Day, we are celebrating the music of World War II. I am very excited for the artists lined up for both shows! Stay tuned!! I’m also still searching for a June date.

NLE: How have cabaret audiences changed during your 35-year career as a NYC entertainer?

RS: There are several changes. The biggest is that there is less print coverage. The internet and social media have put a huge dent in that. I have also seen the lines get blurrier and blurrier over the years between audiences and artists. Most artists are primarily focused on other artists to fill their seats, as opposed to trying to expand their outreach. I truly paid my dues starting out. I still am! Each time, it doesn’t get easier; it gets harder and harder. I work tirelessly in keeping my name “out there.” Trust me, it doesn’t come easily! There also seems to be a huge disconnect in some venues between the venue and artists booked. In some venues, the person answering the phones —if you do, indeed, get a real person — can tell you absolutely nothing about the shows booked there. The other — huge detriment, I feel — are theseexorbitant handling fees. It’s also a huge undertaking. Every show I do costs between $3,000-$5,000!

NLE: There must be strong value for the money for the audience. Why do you get so many repeat attendees?

RS: Audiences have no idea what they are going to see, hear, or who they may see there. Neither do I! Each of my shows is an interactive experience. The audience, to me, is more important than anything I do on stage. Their comfort level and enjoyment are always utmost in my thoughts. I play to the audience before me. I love conversing with them and bringing them into the moments that we are all sharing. My shows have an outline, but are not scripted. Every show for me is a celebration and event. I never want anyone to leave feeling that they didn’t get their money’s worth.

NLE: What is your hope for RSC moving forward? What is your hope for cabaret?

RS: My ultimate goal with this show is to merge cabaret and theater into a cohesive fun night out. I would LOVE for the show to sell itself with more of an element of surprise as to who ANY of my guests are! I truly do get such a high out of celebrating artists and giving audiences a chance to learn a little bit more about them through my onstage interviews. I would LOVE to only focus on the shows and not be concerned with marketing and promotion.

My hope for cabaret, moving forward, is that the artists focus me on doing great work as opposed to winning awards and competing with one another. I would also love to see the “you come see me, I’ll come see you” paradigm go! I would like to see the venues take more of a vested interest in the acts they book, and lastly, I would like to see more PRE-press for shows as opposed to writing about shows AFTER the fact.

BONUS QUESTION:

NLE: Social media has formed the way we plan our lives, and the way we interact with each other. You have about 5,000 friends on Facebook — Has social media helped or hindered the cabaret community and the cabaret experience

RS: Very interesting question! I believe that it has hindered the way ALL of us interact with one another. It HURTS and STINGS when people that I know personally receive a personalized email and don’t even respond. I’m not just talking about shows. When I reached the 5,000 mark on Facebook —the maximum– I thought that I had achieved something great. I now think of it more of a hindrance. I would like to have more of an engaged experience with those who are Facebook “friends” and “followers.” I can post and post and there are some who feel that I may post too much. But, for every show, I always run into friends and acquaintances at social events who are also Facebook friends tell me that they had no idea I was doing a show!

I once asked a branding expert when it was “too much” and he said, “AFTER THE SHOW CLOSES!”

See www.RichardSkipper.com for more info.

The Laurie Beechman Theatre is in the West Bank Cafe, 407 West 42 St. at Ninth Avenue

Online reservations for this Sunday:https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pe.c/10142630