Corrections or additions?

This review by Simon Saltzman was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper

on November 24, 1999. All rights reserved.

Broadway Review: `Dame Edna’

Janet Reno wants me to do a makeover. She wants me

to bring out her hidden femininity," says Dame Edna, in a manner

so candid and with such sincerity it could serve as a lesson in

misplaced

diplomacy. Yet it was not a major celebrity, but rather a Princeton

couple in 10th row center aisle seats that bore the brunt of many

of Dame Edna’s scabrous barbs on the night that I attended "Dame

Edna: The Royal Tour." Among the other good sports, they surely

knew what they were in for, if only from having seen Dame Edna on

TV. After just a few more of Dame Edna’s intentionally nosy inquiries

into the affairs of others in various locations in the house, it was

evident that people had come from far and wide to be in the presence

of this endearingly egotistical self-made "superstar."

Notwithstanding her illusions of being an investigative journalist,

chanteuse, swami, adviser to British royalty, grief counselor,

spin-doctor,

and icon, Dame Edna is to be seriously considered as a force for the

millennium. How fulfilling it must feel to know you have become one

of the growing numbers of the rich, the famous, but mostly less

illustrious

persons who have served as foils for Dame Edna’s now almost legendary

brand of mischievous mockery. Her self-satisfied pronouncements and

denouncements in regard to those individual close-to-home targets,

in particular, and her observations on society and propriety in

general,

leave no doubt that she is an informed social anthropologist and

confirmed

moralist of the first order. You will notice how important politicos

and glamorous showbiz celebrities play second fiddle to the more

agreeably

and easily victimized at hand.

Wearing a different sequin-studded outfit for each act, supplied by

costumer Stephen Adnitt (plus, Dame Edna informs us, "divine

inspiration

from my darling son Kenny"), and her mauve wig teased into a

formidable

steel helmet, Dame Edna could easily pass for Margaret Thatcher

auditioning

for a role in "Absolutely Fabulous." To be sure, the majority

of the audience that roared with laughter almost continuously at the

self-important "Dame" from Australia, Edna Everage, would

have given anything to be singled out for ridicule.

Singled out, but not present for the purpose of sharing

her own troubles, are Dame Edna’s mother and grown children. Brief

histories of her window dresser and dress designing son who lives

in Chelsea and has "so many friends," the daughter who lives

in Flatbush with a retired Czech tennis pro of the same sex, and her

mother who "lives in a maximum security twilight home," are

amusingly considered through rose-colored glasses.

Whether Broadway will join the rest of the English-speaking world

that has succumbed to Dame Edna’s upbraiding charms remains to be

seen. Despite my initial resistance, I have to admit that I was amused

(and mercifully left alone to take notes). Taking account of Dame

Edna is actor and artist Barry Humphries, who can say that he has

been more than merely receptive to his seductively garish creation

for about 40 years. In fact, she possesses him. Under Humphries’

unsurprisingly

indulgent direction, Dame Edna uses her chatty rapport with various

audience members to propel what is basically a rather old-fashioned

vaudeville act. It says something about our culture that we all

continue

to take great pleasure in watching pretentiousness paraded and

innocence

skewered.

That Princeton couple, having once admitted to Dame Edna that they

had left a baby sitter at home with their infant child, were submitted

to an on-again, off-again interrogation that eventually led to an

onstage phone call directly to couple’s home. Needless to say, Dame

Edna’s conversation with the sitter, and overheard by us all, left

no doubt that a certain baby-sitter’s fees will soon go up. Dame

Edna’s

ability to keep a cross-current of conversations going is cause enough

for hilarity, but that she remembers the scores of first names as

she soliloquizes is amazing indeed.

In this flagrantly inane show, Dame Edna is assisted by two leggy

chorines called the "the gorgeous" Ednaettes (Roxane Barlow

and Tamlyn Brooke Shusterman), and pianist Andrew Ross. On those

occasions

when Dame Edna’s "hands-on-magic for yourself and for your wives,

children, significant others, and same sex partners" isn’t making

you howl or crawl under your seat, she has a few musical numbers to

keep things lively.

And what about the Dame’s dancing and singing? Well, if you’ve ever

been in an underground bomb shelter during the blitz when someone

in the crowd decided to help keep spirits up, then you have it. But

you can’t escape it either, especially when Dame Edna hands out

hundreds

of gladioli and rehearses her "possums" for a slightly lewd,

sing-along stand-up finale. I have to admit that there is nothing

quite like this down-under Dame. HHH

— Simon Saltzman

Dame Edna: The Royal Tour, Booth Theater, 222 West 45th

Street, New York, Tele-Charge at 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200.

$45 & $60.

UNLESS OTHERWISE noted, all Broadway reservations can be made

through Tele-Charge at 800-432-7250 or 212-239-6200. For

Ticketmaster

listings call 800-755-4000 or 212-307-4100.

For current information on Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, music,

and dance call NYC/On Stage at 212-768-1818, a 24-hour performing

arts hotline operated by the Theater Development Fund. The TKTS

same-day,

half-price ticket booth at Times Square (Broadway & 47th) is open

daily, 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. for evening performances; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

for Wednesday and Saturday matinees; and noon to closing for Sunday

matinees. The lower Manhattan booth, on the Mezzanine at 2 World Trade

Center, is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Saturday

11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; closed Sunday. Cash or travelers’ checks only.

Visit TKTS at: www.tdf.org.

A Broadway ticket line at 212-302-4111 gives information on Broadway,

selected Off-Broadway, and touring shows in other cities; calls can

be transferred to a ticket agent. Sponsored by Continental Airlines

and the New York Times.


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