by Kathryn Kitt
Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner returned to the stage together for the first time in nine years with a brand new show called Unattached! The singer/actresses have kept busy with their own projects, including Ms. Ripley’s forthcoming Broadway opening of American Psycho. Thankfully they have reunited to present a new show at Feinstein’s/54Below. The program consists of old favorites, duets and solos, but clearly with the understanding that their voices together are magic. Backed by a first-rate band, with John Fischer (piano), Randy Landau (bass) and Shannon Ford (drums), Ms. Ripley and Ms. Skinner’s voices enlighten the crowd with their full-bodied sound.
I remember seeing Sideshow back in 1997, as if it were yesterday. Sideshow starred Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner in the roles of Violet and Daisy Hilton, the Siamese twins who became famous stage performers in the 1930’s. The concept was not appealing to me at first, but since I was a huge fan of Henry Krieger’s Dreamgirls score, I decided to give it a try. Little did I know that I was in for a cathartic and life changing musical and dramatic experience. From the opening vocalize of Ms. Ripley and Ms. Skinner’s harmonizing voices to the power ballads of “Who Will Love Me as I am?” and “I Will Never Leave You,” Broadway, for me, was turned on its head. The show was my Hamilton and the cast recording was on repeat play in my car.
Both ladies were deservedly nominated for Tony awards for Sideshow. What made it so unique was that in an unprecedented move, they were nominated together as one actress, in the category of leading actress in a musical. Since then, Ms. Ripley and Ms. Skinner triumphed in solo projects, like Next to Normal, The Full Monty, Billy Elliott and many more. However, fans were yearning for these two powerhouses to sing together again, and boy did they not disappoint!
Upon entering the stage, both ladies wore the same black dress and jokingly called attention to it. However, they quickly distinguished themselves in voice and personality. Ms. Ripley has a warm rich tone with a “sob” like quality and Ms. Skinner sings with a lush, comforting tone. Their voices have deepened and are very distinguishable, yet blending with their usual effortlessness.
Ironically, Ms. Ripley and Ms. Skinner did not sing much from Sideshow. They touched on “I Will Never Leave You” and a dropped number “Leave me Alone” which they acknowledged as so. They even laughed about how the diehards would only know that song. Rather, they focused on repertoire that reflected their maturity and life experience, lamenting about how they now play the Mames, Dollys and Mama Roses – whether we like it or not.
Unattached! played off as a fun, accessible show. The combination of Ms. Ripley and Ms. Skinner’s playful banter on the highs and lows in their various lives, combined with their sisterly like barbs, felt like being in their living room. The nice thing is that they both genuinely adore each other and give each other room to shine.
Ms. Ripley brought down the house with her own rendition of “As if We Never Said Goodbye,” from Sunset Boulevard, complete with a mid-show standing ovation. Ms. Skinner gave a beautifully performed version of “I Don’t Need a Roof” from Big Fish that showcased her lush, mezzo tone. Still, it is when they sing together, they are one.
From their opening “Friendship” medley to their closing number, “Two Sisters” (by Carly Simon), Ms. Ripley and Ms. Skinner deliver pathos, warmth and goosebumps. Their voices are too exceptional together to just come and go every 9 years. I truly hope that these ladies continue to perform together again. If not, try and grab a ticket before Saturday!
Alice Ripley & Emily Skinner: Unattached!
February 3-6, 2016 www.Feinstein’s/54Below.com