The show’s title refers, of course, to the ladies having been conjoined at the hip as twins Violet and Daisy Hilton in Broadway’s Sideshow, a state which this evening exploits. Separate careers include Ripley’s appearance in Next to Normal, which garnered her a Tony Award, and Skinner’s most recent starring role in Big Fish. The club is packed for this return engagement – on a Tuesday night- at 9:30. In fact, our table is shared by two devoted women fans here on vacation from Sweden who have tickets for consecutive shows and own all three duet CDs.
Clearly written and directed by its performers, the piece could be tighter and funnier. Gushing about one another goes on too long, pseudo jealousy jokes are mugged. There’s no question these women are talented singers, however. Performance and range are similar making duets balanced. Both project with power and confidence.
An anthem-like “I Will Never Leave You” (Bill Russell/Henry Krieger- Sideshow) is aborted several bars in when the ladies realize they’re “on the wrong side,” i.e. not in the accustomed configuration formerly shared eight shows a week. The four song Friendship Medley that follows has Ripley and Skinner executing dance steps locked at the hip. Awkwardness makes this fun, even recalling the terrific choreography of Sideshow.
“Best Friends” (theme from The Courtship of Eddie’s Father) and “She Needs Me” (both Harry Nilsson) seem as if they can’t work in tandem, but do. Randy Landau’s bass takes very cool rhythmic lead, Jeff Potter’s brushes are smooth and sandy. Vocals veer to pop. Another highlight, “Tonight You Belong To Me” (Billy Rose/Lee David), emerges partly in harmonized a capella buoyed by lilting bass. Back to back and side by side the seated ladies sway until joined by John Fischer, whereupon the three play kazoos.
Skinner imbues “I Don’t Need a Roof” (Andrew Lippa from Big Fish) with history and heart. One can palpably feel the pain of facing her husband’s mortality. Her rendition of “When It Ends” (Michael John La Chuisa) is sheer noir; biting and royally pissed off. Though understated, the artist is an actress at all times. We buy her sentiments.
On the other hand, Ripley’s excerpt from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Memory,” ostensibly proving she should have gotten the role of Grizabella in the upcoming revival of Cats, evidences no history, no despair. This was unfortunately also the case in the vocalist’s rendition of “As If We Never Said Goodbye” (Andrew Lloyd Webber/Christopher Hampton/ Don Black-Sunset Boulevard) which, though it ricocheted off the walls, additionally lacked desperation.
Alice Ripley, Emily Skinner (back-Randy Landau)
The usually delightful “Bosom Buddies” (Jerry Herman from Mame) also lands with a thunk. Every emotion is telegraphed rather than wryly indicated with deadpan brio that should serve the wicked froth.
Shaina Taub’s “Reminder Song” is interesting and effective: Three cheers for agony /A toast to the pain/ Hats off to everything that leaves a scar /For reminding me who my friends are… The artists seem serious and grateful. Carly Simon’s rarely heard “Two Little Sisters”: Two little sisters gazing at the sea,/Imagining what their futures will be….is a sweet way to close.
This is an extremely mixed bag that would benefit by a director.
Photos by Maryann Lopinto
Opening: Emily Skinner, Alice Ripley
Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner: Unattached
John Fischer-piano, Randy Landau-bass, Jeff Potter-drums
254 West 54th Street
Through July 25, 2016