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A CurtainUp Review
All About Me
By Elyse Sommer
So why does the truce Stage Manager Capless negotiates between the battling soft voiced American Songbook champion and the brassy champion of glitz, self adoration and audience insult come off so lame and phony? Quite simply Vive La Difference just doesn't fit this misconceived mash-up.
Matching the petite and subtle song interpreter with Australia's decidedly unsubtle drag satirist was something of a match made in publicity heaven. And the publicists for All About Me made a feast of the mock feud prompted by each of these very different divas planning a similarly named Broadway show, opening around the same time. Attention getting statements were issued from both camps:" Titles are not copyrightable. I wish Ms. Edna well. I've heard of her," was a Feinstein salvo. Not to be undone, the Dame declared "Someone purchased a CD of Mr. Feinstein's at a flea market in Australia and re-gifted it to me recently. I'm impressed at how often he sings on key." No sooner were the various missives duly noted in the press than publicists announced a merger — which of course was everyone's intent all along.
Unfortunately, All About Me is tethered to that feud gimmick. The matchmakers who thought bringing Dame Edna and Feinstein together would be double the fun rolled into one for both Dame Edna's and Feinstein's fans miscalculated. Unlike other successfully mismatched duos like Mutt and Jeff and Abbot and Costello, Dame Edna and Feinstein are terminally incompatible. Edna is not just bigger physically, but her brand of comedy is more suited to a big stage, Feinstein belongs at the piano in a concert or cabaret setting who sings well, expertly tickles the ivories, but falls short as a comedian. This dooms him to getting the short end of thie mostly unfunny and tiresome gag.
The band perched on Anna Louizos' wannabe Busby Berkeley set in a ghastly shade of bluish lavender (to match the Dame's bouffant wig?) plays energetically but too loudly. The usually astute director Casey Nicholow (The Drowsy Chaperone, Spamalot) has exacerbated the irresolvable differences that doom the show's ultimate shift from ME to WE by dividing the 90 minutes into two solo segments and the final getting together (at least physically and in song, if not with any convincing chemistry).
After an All About Feinstein opening which somehow feels out of place in this setting and does little to showcase his assets, Dame Edna takes over. And does she ever!
Given that this really is all about THEM (her and Feinstein) her shtick, which you can't help laughing at, is limited by the need to leave room for Feinstein's song and cabaret-ish patter. This might be a good thing considering that it's pretty much Edna-as-ever, except for some smashing new gowns by Stephen Adnitt and a nod to timeliness (she takes on Madonna's Nambian baby, the Madoff scam, and the flood of Sondheim tributes; the latter including a mean spirited sendup of Sondheim and Elaine Stritch in a "Ladies Who Lunch" riff. She also renames the "paupers" in the balcony as the "Nouveau Pouvre.")
Somehow Edna's shtick, even if mostly more of the same, works better when all about Edna. When Feinstein, whom she's chased off stage for her de-calorized solo, insists on coming back the gimmicky matchmaking device doesn't do any great favors for either Dame Edna or Feinstein.
It's hard to assess what playwright Christopher Durang contributed to the script since there are other script and concept credits. Backup dancers Gregory Butler and Jon-Paul Mateo add to the Las Vegas aura. The nine original songs include a fun Feinstein number, "The Gladdy Song," which, of course leads to a classic Edna finale with both stars tossing long-stemmed gladiolas into the audience, and landing a few in the side balconies. Too bad that it's only during this cheery end to an otherwise often endless seeming 90 minutes, that Feinstein seems to relax into a more Edna-ish impishness.
Links to reviews of previous Dame Edna shows
Dame Edna: The Royal Tour- 1999
Dame Edna: Back With a Vengeance -2004