Hello, Carol! :: Nicky Ciampoli Celebrates Theater Legend Carol Channing

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Sunday January 28, 2018
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Nicky as Carol Channing @ Oasis: Performer Nicky Ciampoli pays drag homage to the illustrious Broadway and TV star in a comedy and music solo show.
Nicky as Carol Channing @ Oasis: Performer Nicky Ciampoli pays drag homage to the illustrious Broadway and TV star in a comedy and music solo show.

She's one of the most legendary names in musical theater. On January 31, her 97th birthday, Carol Channing will be celebrated at the Oasis when Nicky as Carol Channing takes to the stage.

Channing is a San Francisco native, a graduate of Lowell High School. The Carol Channing Theater now stands on the school grounds.

Nicky Ciampoli's Oasis show promises to be a particularly special performance. He didn't learn how to "do" Channing by watching the diva perform. He was actually a friend and confidant of the star. For a number of years Ciampoli worked as the personal assistant to Channing and her late husband Harry.

"The three of us would make lunch together, eat together, do shopping together; we were like a family," Ciampoli told Bay Area Reporter. "It almost felt as if they were my very own grandparents. Most nights we would sit in her bedroom and watch old movies or news programs that were on TV. Carol loved watching 'The View,' since she is very good friends with Barbara Walters and Whoopi, so there's a little trivia for you. I could go on and on about what life was like with her!"

For more than seventy years, Channing has been one of musical theater's most celebrated and beloved stars. She won the coveted Tony Award for Hello Dolly, her signature role, which she has played thousands of times all over the world. She received three other Tony nominations, and was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Tony Award in 1995. She has also appeared in films, winning a Golden Globe and scoring an Oscar nomination for her role in the film "Thoroughly Modern Millie" (1967), where her character coins the exclamation, "Raspberries!" Channing also made many appearances on television.

A longtime supporter of the gay community, Channing told talk show host Conan O'Brien that gays make the best audiences. "I'm an honorary lesbian," she told a somewhat bemused O'Brien as she boasted proudly about all the drag queens in Las Vegas who were "doing her."

With Channing, according to Ciampoli, what you see is what you get; the onstage and offstage personas were not the same.

"Although she was known as dizzy blonde, frankly she was the complete opposite. She was very smart," he said. "Carol is very intelligent, to carry on a conversation with her was remarkable. If she didn't know a subject, she would listen and her big brown eyes would enlarge if it was exciting to her. One thing you better have is excellent grammar, otherwise she would correct you. Trust me, I have been corrected!"

Ciampoli added that his ex-boss knows about the shows he's doing. "I'm her younger sister," he said.

He noted that Nicky as Carol Channing wouldn't be the 'campy' Channing which many drag queens have done, but a recreation of an actual Carol Channing concert. He'll be performing songs from Channing's signature shows, "Hello Dolly" and "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes," among other shows, and will share stories. And it's all performed live. Ciampoli promises that there will be no lip-syncing.

"I think that Carol has left a print in life for sure," he said. "Sadly she is one of the few left from early Broadway. Carol has played for kings and queens and to thousands of audiences. We should all hope to be like her; a wonderful giving soul that tried to bring a little laughter and happiness."

Nicky as Carol Channing @ Oasis: Performer Nicky Ciampoli pays drag homage to the illustrious Broadway and TV star in a comedy and music solo show. $27.50-$40. Wednesday, January 31 at 8pm. 298 11th St. www.sfoasis.com