NEW PORT RICHEY — Nicky Ciampoli was working for John Timpanelli’s local theatre troupe when he first met the late Carol Channing, the raspy-voiced stage and film actress known for her Broadway performances in Hello Dolly and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
It was 2006 and Timpanelli, who had a career performing with some of the greats, brought Channing to New Port Richey to perform her one-woman show The First Eighty Years Are The Hardest.
It was a dream come true for Ciampoli.
The 2003 graduate of River Ridge High had long admired the acts of old. He even had a regular gig entertaining seniors in nursing homes — a vaudeville-type act featuring his sister, Aliceson, lip-syncing to Judy Garland tunes and his impression of the famed pianist, Liberace.
“We just clicked and ended up staying in touch,” Ciampoli said of Channing.
A few months later, Channing asked Ciampoli to fly to California to take a job as her personal assistant. It was a position he held for five years, though he kept in close touch until her death in January of 2019.
During that time, Channing’s act morphed into his, with her blessing.
It wasn’t much of a stretch to pick up Channing’s distinct mannerisms, he said. “She had all these little idiosyncrasies.”
Before long, he was singing Hello Dolly at a piano bar and filling in for Channing at the Palm Springs Film Festival when she began to slow down.
“It became a full-time gig about eight years ago,” said Ciampoli.
Since then, he has performed with Mickey Gilley, played Micheal Feinstein’s 54 Below and Broadway’s Supper Club. He has worked with with Debbie Reynolds, Kaye Ballard and Lucie Arnaz.
Most recently, Ciampoli performed for Channing’s family at what would have been her 99th birthday party in January.
Now he’s bringing the act back to New Port Richey for a one-time performance on Feb 20 at the Richey Suncoast Theatre.
“Nicky as Carol Channing” is a musical review featuring signature songs such as Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend, Hello Dolly and a little bit of county, Ciampoli said, "Because Carol performed on the Grand Ole Opry. "
There will be impressions of the late singer and radio personality Sophie Tucker and actress Tallulah Bankhead.
It’s a fun experience and a tribute.
“I am grateful to her, because if not for her, I would never have the life I have,” Campoli said. "It’s a great honor because she means so much to me in my personal life.
As is the honor of playing the fabled Richey Suncoast Theatre that was built in the 1920s by silent screen star Thomas Meighan.
“I saw shows there growing up, and I really have to give them credit for what they are doing there,” he said. “It’s really an honor that I get to play their stage in a one-person show. That’s a thrill for me.”
If you go: Nicky as Carol Channing will be at 7 p.m. Feb. 20 at the Richey Suncoast Theatre, 6237 Grand Boulevard, New Port Richey. Tickets are $25. Call the box office at (727) 842-6777. .