Cabaret Review: Emily Skinner: There is Nothing like a Dame at Signature Theatre

Emily Skinner as Mae West in Signature Theatre's production of "Dirty Blonde."  Photo by Scott Suchamn.

Emily Skinner as Mae West in Signature Theatre’s production of “Dirty Blonde.” Photo by Scott Suchamn.

Broadway star Emily Skinner’s cabaret concert at Signature Theatre is called There Is Nothing like a Dame. No truer words were ever spoken about the actress that starred in Side Show and more recently Billy Elliot. With Signature’s oh so talented staff musician on piano Gabriel Mangiante, Skinner’s act had lots of variety and featured a few standards, plus some lesser known pieces (at least to the masses).

You only have through Saturday to see Emily Skinner in action at Signature Theatre and if you go I guarantee you will be happy you did.

Right out of the box with Kander and Ebb’s “Everybody’s Girl,” Miss Skinner demonstrated that she has the three Bs, (a big brassy belt). She then tells the story about she had been singing the wrong songs for her audition. She was told she was a soprano and was covering Barbara Cook’s repertoire. That was until an accompanist recommended a song by Cook’s long time arranger/pianist Wally Harper called “Here Comes the Ballad,” which pokes fun at those slow torchy songs we all know and love. Once Skinner started auditioning with that song things began to happen for her.

A few other highlights of the evening included David Friedman’s rant “My Simple Christmas Wish” or “Rich Famous and Powerful,” Jones and Schmidt’s “Simple Little Things” from their masterpiece 110 in the Shade, Bill Russell and Janet Hood’s “My Brother Lived in San Francisco” from Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens and ending with the 1930’s classic “For All We Know.”

Emily Skinner

Emily Skinner

Skinner recently completed a new musical at Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam Connecticut called The Great American Mousical, which was directed by Julie Andrews and is based on the book Andrews wrote with her daughter. The score was written by one of the best teams writing today Zina Goldrich (music) and Marcy Heisler (lyrics). Skinner first performed an older piece by the team called “Bald” which talks about how vein men are about losing their hair. And then as if she knew us musical theatre geeks wanted something from the team’s new score, she delivered with her act one finish “Adelaide’s Dilemma.” (Nothing like putting your audience in musical theatre heaven.)

Some of you may know that Emily Skinner last starred at Signature in Dirty Blonde, which was about the film star Mae West. Reminding us how good she was in that show, Skinner performed a song West had written for her return to Broadway after being kicked out of Hollywood. The song became her signature piece (no pun intended). If you are familiar with Mae West, then it should be no surprise that the song is entitled “Come Up and see Me Sometime.”

One nice thing about watching Emily Skinner is no matter how many times you see her she always sounds incredible. Even though much of her material had been sung in concert at Kennedy Center in a previous concert she never seems bored and she always gives her audience a great show.

You only have through Saturday to see Emily Skinner in action at Signature Theatre and if you go I guarantee you will be happy you did. Anyone with that kind of song selection and performance quality definitely makes it worth the trip.

Running Time: 50 Minutes with no intermission.

Emily Skinner: There is Nothing Like a Dame plays through Jan 12th , 2013 at The Ark at Signature Theatre – 4200 Campbell Avenue, in Arlington, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (703) 820-9771, or purchase them online.