‘Emily Skinner’ at The Barbara Cook Spotlight Series at The Kennedy Center by David Friscic

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Broadway musical singer and stage actress Emily Skinner dazzled the crowd at the Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theatre Friday evening, April 13th, for a scintillating set of 13 songs interspersed with lively and humorous patter. From the moment Skinner stepped onstage, she took full command of the nuances of every song in her set with engaging accompaniment by John Fischer – her pianist and Musical Director. Regally dressed in a stunning black dress, Skinner proved that she has one of the best voices in the business as she cavorted through a cycle of songs that ran from more upbeat belting numbers to more rueful ballads. Skinner is a singer who acts each song and her theatrical gestures and training were superb assets as she sang a variety of well-chosen songs -some sorrowful, some sensual and some audacious and boisterous. After all, she reminded the audience that she is after all ‘a stage actress.’

Emily Skinner. Photo by Laura Marie Duncan.

Skinner, a Broadway veteran of such cult shows as Side Show and more mainstream fare such as The Full Monty and Billy Elliot possesses a beautifully pure and soaring tone that can caress a ballad or slam home a show tune. Her delivery and diction is impeccable and crisp without being arch or formal. In fact, she manages to be both relaxed and authorative in her approach to her songs. This approach made for a charming and natural tone all evening long as she poked fun at the fact that her choice of songs had no unified theme and that she would spend hours entertaining her class in school – as she was very highly influenced by her kindergarten teacher! One of Skinner’s more interesting stories was her experience of working two years in Billy Elliot appearing with a total of fourteen different Billys.

Totally in control through the entire evening, there were –indeed–several musical highlights. Her rendition of “Sleepy Man” from the musical “The Robber Bridegroom” was suffused with a wistful acceptance and peaceful resignation. She recalled that she played the role of Lizzie in 110 in the Shade in college and that she always felt that this show had the perfect book for a musical; with this introduction she launched into a direct and moving renditon of the song “Simple Little Things.” From Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens she mesmerized with a heartbreaking meditation on a loved one lost during the AIDS holocaust in “My Brother Lived in San Francisco.” She built to a torchy climax while belting out “More Than You Know” with moving tenderness and passion.

Emily Skinner is the type of unique and exciting talent that rarely comes along these days and it was a thrilling pleasure to be in her company at the Kennedy Center as part of the Barbara Cook’s Spotlight series.

Now in its fifth season, Barbara Cook’s Spotlight brings perennial Broadway favorites to the Kennedy Center’s intimate Terrace Theater for a host of theater cabaret performances. Upcoming performances will include Aaron Lazar on May 4, 2012, and two performances by the legendary Barbara Cook on June 15 and 16, 2012.

 

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David Friscic
David has always had a passionate interest in the arts from acting in professional dinner theatre and community theatre to reviewing film and local theatre in college to making numerous treks to New York City to indulge his interest in live theatre. An enthusiastic interest in writing has shown itself in a BA in English/Education and an MA in English Literature. Taken together, these two interests have culminated in the logical conclusion of writing for an arts blog. David moved up and down the East Coast due to his father's job at General Electric and this has helped him to perceive the world in a very open way. After his schooling, David taught in Catholic school systems for awhile and, then, spent three years in the seminary with two years at Catholic University studying Theology and one year in a practicuum working at a church in New York State. David currently works at the National Science Foundation as a Technical Information Specialist for the Office of Polar Programs and has had the great opportunity to go to Antarctica twice and Greenland once in support of the research community. He enjoys living in Bethesda and has taken courses at the Writer's Center. David enjoys swimming, traveling, reading, and working on committees at his condo. His major interest, however, is the arts and all it encompasses---from symphony, to film, to museum treks to live theatre. He counts having lunch with Lillian Gish and meeting Lily Tomlin, Geraldine Page, Maureen Stapleton, Liza Minnelli and Sandy Dennis as some of the more exciting encounters of his life.