March 31, 2006

“Dame Edna” returns to LA after five years

By Jay Reiner

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Some people read tea
leaves, others read palms. Dame Edna Everage, Australia's gift
to the civilized world, reads shoes taken directly from the
feet of audience members. That's just one of the many talents
that separates Dame Edna from the rest of humanity in her
splendid new show, "Dame Edna: Back With a Vengeance!"

Dame Edna, of course, is Barry Humphries, the Australian
man for all seasons who paints, writes and acts when he isn't
wearing a dress in public. Humphries has been doing Dame Edna
for about 50 years, so he's got her act down just about right.
On opening night at the Ahmanson Theater, Edna was on a roll.
Not five minutes into the show, and her unique bag of tricks
already was spilling over into the audience, which can't wait
to be humiliated by one of the world's foremost practitioners
of the art.

In most ways, Dame Edna's act hasn't changed that much.
Although nearly five years have passed since her last visit to
Los Angeles, the great Dame doesn't look that different, except
for a slight droop in the right side of her mouth and a little
less oomph when she throws gladiolas to the audience at the end
of the show. The garish dresses, purple hair ("I'm the only
woman with a purple bikini line.") and trademark rhinestone
spectacles still make her look like your favorite nutty aunt
putting on the dog.

But still, there is a difference this time. Call it the
"vengeance" factor. Edna, the poor dear, is getting older.
Perhaps because she is getting older, she's also getting nosier
and -- to put the matter as delicately as possible -- more
dirty-minded. Her interest in other people's private lives has
taken a distinct turn toward the prurient and voyeuristic, much
to the delight of the audience, which apparently loves to see
one of their own squirm in the hands of a master.

On opening night, this strategy worked to perfection. Stacy
and Steve offered themselves up for some impromptu marriage
counseling that included an amusing phone call to Stacy's
mother in Simi Valley. This was followed by a staged reading
with five audience members of a scene from Edna's early married
life. In both cases, Edna's choices could hardly have been
better. Or funnier. If the goal is to make an audience laugh
and roar its affection, Dame Edna clearly is at the top of her

Adding to the merriment are Wayne Barker's expert
accompaniment at the piano and the delectable Ednaettes, Teri
DiGianfelice and Michelle Pampena.

Devised and written by: Barry Humphries; Additional
material: Andrew Ross; Production designers: Brian Thompson,
Harley Medcalf; Lighting designer: Jane Cox; Costume designers:
Stephen Adnitt, Will Goodwin; Choreographer: Jason Gilkinson.
Cast: Dame Edna Everage, Wayne Barker, Teri DiGianfelice,
Michelle Pampena.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter