Channing entertaining
despite forgetfulness

Age has its privileges. Carol Channing, 84, got a standing ovation the moment she appeared on stage for her show, "An Evening With Carol Channing," at the Hawaii Theatre on Friday, and kept the audience on her side even when she appeared to forget where she was going in mid-story.

Forgetfulness can be funny if it's feigned as part of the act, and painful if a beloved performer is actually losing it on stage.

With pianist Don White providing the Broadway legend with cues or reminders as needed, Channing charmed her way through the evening with a winning sense of improv similar to that seen at the opening night of a Frank DeLima show. Several of Channing's stories wandered off course in odd ways, but she was entertaining throughout.

Channing was at her best sharing stories about people she's worked with and with impressions of them. Tallulah Bankhead disliked wearing clothes -- panties, most of all. Sophie Tucker was proud of her large breasts and deep cleavage. Ann Miller broke up a shooting of "The Love Boat" by sharing more information than necessary about where she perspired most heavily.

Channing also recalled visiting Hawaii in 1937, shared an improbable but apparently true story about how she got into show business, and described in detail the problems that occurred when she and Yul Brynner met Queen Elizabeth of England.

Channing directed almost all of the show to the audience immediately in front of her, and it was there that the laughter and applause was the loudest and most consistent. There was a definite sense of disconnect for those amid the empty seats on the edges of the house, and much less response.

As for the musical highlights, Channing sang, "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" and "Hello, Dolly!" to enthusiastic applause, but should have had more of a band behind her than pianist White and a synthesizer player. Channing and her fans alike deserved much more than a karaoke track-style "horns" and "drums."

Act II opened with a collection of video and film clips showing Channing in her prime performing on Broadway and in television variety shows. It was a poignant reminder of what she's done and how long she's been doing it.

Channing received another standing ovation as she closed the show with a second rendition of "Hello, Dolly!", and Dolly Levi's triumphant couplet, "Wow, wow, wow, fellows/Look at the old girl now, fellows!", summed up the performance in more ways than one.

"Razzle Dazzle," a third musical highlight of the evening, seemed applicable as well.

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