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A CurtainUp Review
Dame Edna: The Royal Tour
Australian actor/writer Barry Humphries has revised the solo performance for which his on-stage persona Dame Edna Everage won a Special 2000 Tony to include Dame Edna's slyly appalled impressions of Los Angeles, beginning with the "little tucked-away Shubert Theatre" (one of LA's biggest spaces) in which she makes her debut.
Taking no chances, DE begins with an instructive voice-over delineating the difference between TV viewers and theatre audiences. ("You can smile at the person sitting next to you--briefly. Look at Dame Edna when she's talking to you! When the lights go out, its over.") There follows an array of historical film clips ranging from DE's first appearance in the mid-1970s as one of Humphries' array of characters to talk-show conversations with everyone from Gloria Swanson to Richard Gere.
They were sorely missed opening night, even though DE declares, "People are so much more interesting than celebrities. It's not about me, it's about you. I wouldn't insult you with a rehearsed show."
After a snidely refined comparison of New York and Los Angeles audiences, particularly in the matters of driving and dress code, DE devoted most of the first act to interviewing members of the audience. This got monotonous after a while but when Act II rolled around, it became apparent that Act I had been a set-up to hauling these people on stage for mild fun and games. In between were various musical numbers, including "Friends of Kenny" praising DE's gay son. The show is more like a nightclub act dependent on audience participation than a one-person play showcasing original material
Humphries' quick wit, repartee and timing are a pleasure to watch but, though he claims he can be politically incorrect because DE has diplomatic immunity, observations of current events never got much below the level of hiring Robert Blake to be a security guard and insult humor directed at "the mizzies in the mezzie", those mezzanine customers sitting in the lower-priced seats.
There were sing-alongs, and a finale in which DE's signature gladiolas were tossed to those in the front row where the catchees were encouraged to wave happily along in tune with our hostess's bourgeois, blue-hair, music-hall humor. She hits her laugh marks a lot of the time. As Muriel Spark wrote in "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie": "For those who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like."
Dame Edna on Broadway