by MR Anderson
Soaring midway into the definitive rendition of “I Will Never Leave You” (Bill Russell & Henry Krieger), Alice Ripley & Emily Skinner take the stage. With the flawless synchronicity reminiscent of their first New York City performance together nearly nine years ago, it doesn’t take a sideshow psychic to see that theirs is a friendship worth its weight in gold. However, star power and sympathetic sentiment do not necessarily a successful night make, but these ladies deliver . . . and then some.
This is the dynamic duo’s second stint of Alice Ripley & Emily Skinner: Unattached, following a sold-out run in February at Feinstein’s/54 Below. This is a night blessed with as many fresh, alive moments as there are poignant wisdoms. Not two minutes after their entrance, the two ladies barrel into a friendship medley comprised of “You’ll Never Get Away from Me, Together Wherever We Go” (Jule Styne & Stephen Sondheim), “Friendship” (Cole Porter), and “Friends to the End” (Henry Mancini & Leslie Bricusse)—a smart collection expertly delivered.
Bolstered by band members John Fischer (piano), Randy Landau (bass) and Jeff Potter (drums), the transitions from piece to piece are smooth and effective, letting us in on a bit of their companionship through easy conversations and stage tales. Their arguments, quips, comedic timings zip us through the evening while adding a bit of light narrative structure to the whole. “Best Friends/She Needs Me“(Henry Nilsson, arrangement Steve Gunderson) furthers the tale of their BFF status while showcasing admirable scat singing from Skinner. The story is continued as “Leave Me Alone” (Bill Russell & Henry Krieger) sets up major conflict and forgiveness in the form of a hilarious “Bosom Buddies” (Jerry Herman) which pokes fun at each and their respective careers (clothes, age, and boys: no holds barred), and a resolution into “Reminder Song” (Shaina Taub) in which each accept each other through love, a love that warms the whole room.
True to the show’s title, the ladies invent clever circumstances to detach into their solo numbers. Alice Ripley’s “Life Line” (Harry Nilsson, arrangement Steve Gunderson) is an astounding powerhouse of a ballad in which she belts the wallpaper off the room with jaw-dropping ease. In “As If We Never Said Goodbye” (Andrew Lloyd Webber, Christopher Hampton and Don Black), she hypnotizes as we follow her eyes: expressive as ever, an unobstructed window to her honest soul.
Emily Skinner’s “I Don’t Need a Roof” (Andrew Lippa) is as courageous as it is heartbreaking, offering a fresh and intimate look at a piece more often performed for larger prosceniums. “When It Ends” (Michael Jon La Chuisa) is Skinner’s definitive moment of the night, proving that she lives in absolutely no one’s shadow (even her best friend’s).
With an encore of “Two Little Sisters” (Carly Simon) these two national treasures soothe with their wisdom and excellence. The lyrics “I didn’t choose you, and you didn’t choose me” plays on so many levels in its poeticism. While the craft of Ripley and Skinner can be assumed by their extensive credits, this concert is a gift that should not be missed.
Alice Ripley & Emily Skinner: Unattached. Through July 25 (two shows Wednesday, July 20) at Feinstein’s/54 Below (254 West 54th Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue). www.54Below.com Tel: 646.476.3551
Photos: Maryann Lopinto