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July 18, 2016

Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner are Unattached at Feinsteins/54 Below

Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner have a history. For 91 performances and 31 previews of Side Show in the fall of 1997, they were joined at the hip, portraying conjoined twins and performers Daisy and Violet Hilton. That show may have closed early, but over the years Ripley and Skinner have gained a devoted following, many of whom will come to see their show Unattached at Feinsteins/54 Below, playing five more performances through the 25th. But whether you are a die-hard fan or hearing them for the first time, you will find much to love in their show, as well as on their new accompanying CD, “Unattached - Live at Feinstein's/54 Below,” which came out last month.


The show isn’t only a collection of songs; it’s also a moving story. Underneath the funny one-liners and strong vocals, Unattached is a study of a female friendship almost as close as the Hilton sisters. Ripley and Skinner hit the range of emotions many deep friendships encompass: love, respect, envy. They are at once proud of each other’s strengths and accomplishments and also trying to one-up each other (both sneak off at different points to change out of their matching dresses into a fancier dress). Throughout the evening their songs and banter comment on this relationship, which includes their time spent together, along with their time, well, unattached.

In that time apart they worked on different projects—Ripley won a Tony Award for her role as a mother suffering from bi-polar disorder in Next to Normal and Skinner was on Broadway in The Full Monty and Billy Elliott and recently starred in Andrew Lippa’s Big Fish at the Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma (she sings one of her songs from that show). And it is with Unattached, which debuted in February, also at Feinstein’s/54 Below, that they perform together for the first time in nine years.


Throughout the evening they sing fun, upbeat songs about friendship and songs from Side Show, written by Bill Russell and Henry Krieger, including the show’s most well-known duet, “I Will Never Leave You.” They sing roles they want to play (“As If We Never Said Goodbye” from Sunset Boulevard (Andrew Lloyd Webber, Christopher Hampton and Don Black) and songs that came to them at the right time in their lives (“Life Line” by Harry Nilsson, arrangement Steve Gunderson). Many songs are solo numbers, but the focus is always on them as a pair.

Their encore, the Carly Simon song “Two Little Sisters,” contains the line: “I didn’t choose you, and you didn’t choose me,” which could be said to encapsulate their relationship. Ripley and Skinner did not choose each other the way friends choose each other. More similar to sisters, they were brought together by circumstances beyond their control, in this case the circumstances of casting. After the curtain came down on Side Show they could have parted ways for good, yet here they are, almost 20 years later, as though they never separated. They may now be unattached, but, if we’re lucky, they will never fully leave each other.

Alice Ripley & Emily Skinner: Unattached! plays five more performances (July 19, 20, 22, 23, and 25) at Feinstein’s 54/Below.

Photos by
Maryann Lopinto.
Shoshana Greenberg writes musicals, plays, and prose. Her musicals include Lightning Man (Ars Nova ANT Fest) and Days of Rage, and her play The Rapture of our Teeth (a parody of Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth) is published on Indie Theater Now. She earned her MFA from NYU’s Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program after graduating from Barnard College. She also writes about theater for Women and Hollywood and The Huffington Post.


Posted at 8:13 PM

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