Wednesday, June 10, 2009

review - Dame Edna's First Last Tour

Dame Edna
"My First Last Tour"
crafted by Dr. Barry Humphries
additional material by Andrew Ross
no director credited
Ahmanson Theatre
limited engagement through June 21

Dame Edna is back and the little Ahmanson Theatre will never be the same thanks to Barry Humphries. He's Edna's manager and has exploited the lady's mind, body and spirit so much through the years that they are practically joined at the hip. Humphries plays more of a role in this version of the ever popular show, but I refuse to spoil the ingenious surprise. Let's just say it's well worth your time to drop in for a visit. Edna spreads her good will abundantly and American audiences adore her, at least the majority, who also just happen to adore her son Kenny.
"My First Last Tour" begins with a delightful film tracing the lady's career over 50 years from her early days in Australia to becoming the Giga International star that she is...there are tidbits about her husband Norm & about his death due to a prostate 'that loomed over Edna's head' far too long... glimpses of her bridesmaid Madge Allsop, the tiny deadpan frump who almost became as celebrated a personality as the Dame herself... infamous gossip about Edna's escapades while joining the international swing set and her 'brief encounter' with Osama Bin Laden ...the list goes on.
Edna's charm comes from her quick wit and ad libs. When she greets her court, she does not 'pick on them' so much as 'empower' them. That's what she claims anyway! Whatever, it's one big happy love fest with a myriad of sarcastic jokes about the upper and middle classes ("Do you live north or south of Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills?"/ "My mizzies way up in the balcony seats should be called nouveaux pauvres!") , George W. Bush ("Michelle Obama confided there wasn't one bookshelf in the White House!"), gays, referred to lovingly as 'friends of Kenny', who, FYI, designed the Dame's colorfully gaudy frocks.
There are jibes about Angelenos and their casual - I mean, do nothing - lifestyle in LaLa Land, and, of course, multiple assaults on seniors, who can't remember anything. (Edna's favorite expression SAGA - Send Aussie Geriatrics Abroad now becomes GAGA - Give American Geriatrics Away!)
The play's a deliciously mindless gabfest for seniors, who need not worry about any confusing plot to unravel. Two thirds of the way in, senior members of the audience (hand picked by the lady herself) come up on stage to be her guests on the pilot episode of a new LA based talk show... where the silly gab & dishing continue.
The ending is a dispensing of the traditional gladiolas, Edna's emblem of peace and love, with the Gladdie song. And the finale tops all shhhh...I'm sworn to secrecy!
There are three musical numbers to which Edna gleefully lends her quaking alto, and an appearance by Edna's delinquent daughter Valmai (fun turn by Erin-Kate Whitcomb). Whitcomb is fine, but the use of Valmai seems pointless here, except to further the joke about Edna's wavering image as a caring mother. "I wasn't a very good mother. I blame my children." Yet, there's the African infant she's planning to adopt....hmmmmm. Edna's becoming more complex than Joan Crawford!
Regardless of what she says or does, though, audiences eat up every word of it, and if this turns out to be , in fact, Dame Edna's last tour, who could possibly replace this sparkling wit?
That's right, Dame Edna is most assuredly an international treasure. Well, a world class phenomenon, at any rate! Don't miss her during her brief stay until June 21 only!
5 out of 5 stars


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