Henry Miller's Theatre is the place to be for an audience with Australia's most glamorous export, Dame Edna Everage. Dame Edna is back with a vengeance along with that stellar interpreter of the Great American Songbook Michael Feinstein, or as "she" calls him, "Malcolm Finklestein". Their show, with original songs by Feinstein and Dame Edna's creator Barry Humphries and material by award winning playwright Christopher Durang and Humphries, Feinstein, Humphries' wife Lizzie Spender and Terrence Flannery is 90 minutes of bliss. Along with the new material, both performers get to shine solo at what they do best, before joining together to perform a medley of well-known songs, past and present, in the style of 1960s television variety shows.
The premise of the show, All About Me, is that Dame Edna and Michael Feinstein are not happy about sharing the stage together, but after some damage control by their stage manager, they come together. One of the original songs they sing, contains the biting lyric, "We may be like oil and water, Alec Baldwin and his daughter, but we get along amazingly well- Like Tokyo and Godzilla, Sarah Palin and the town of Wasila, We get along amazingly well-" After Michael Feinstein and Dame Edna get to do their initial turns, the show is divided into four sections, topics that the feuding couple agree on, with the help of their stage manager, Barbara Jo, played by Jodi Capeless, "The Great American Songbook", "Songs about Koalas", "Dramatic Songs", and "Medleys".
The best moments of the evening come from Dame Edna. The first is when the Dame, channeling Beyonce with the help of her back up dancers Bruno (Gregory Butler) and Benito (Jon-Paul Mateo), sing "Single Ladies", with crystal clear enunciation. It brings the house down. Towards the end of the show, during their medley, the Dame sings another bit of a current popular song, Amy Winehouse's "Rehab". Going back to "standards", also during the medley, channeling Dame Edna's "manager" Barry Humphries, the Dame adopts a deep bass and sings a strong "Old Man River". Dame Edna further stops the show, when a café is setup on stage and the Dame starts singing Stephen Sondheim's "The Ladies Who Lunch", fully resplendent in her caftan. Earlier in the evening, the Dame had declared "All About Me" a Sondheim free zone, but she confides to the audience, "I'm not convinced that little Steve wrote that song. Too catchy." Not only is the delivery, brilliant, but the staging is as well.
Despite Dame Edna taking center stage, Michael Feinstein is no shrinking violet. In his opening number, "Strike Up the Band", he jumps all over the set, including on top of a white grand piano. He also greatly belts out "The Lady is a Tramp", "A Lot of Livin' To Do" and "What Did I Have?" from "On A Clear Day You Can See Forever". Kudos most definitely goes to conductor Rob Bowman, Elaine Stritch's musical director and the orchestra. Whereas, Feinstein is king of the song, Dame Edna is queen of the one liners and quips. When Dame Edna comes out in a procession of outrageous frocks, designed by Stephen Adnitt, including one she calls her "Marlene Dietrich look," in black and purple, she asks Feinstein if she may "mount his instrument" and after she had done so, like an octogenarian chanteuse, she utters the priceless line, "I have Steinway burn."
Audience member be warned, the closer one sits, the more apt one is to be in Dame Edna's line of vision and to be exposed to barbs. Dame Edna has a tendency to turn on audience members, although she calls it "caring". Apart from Dame Edna Everage and Michael Feinstein, the show offers a star turn from Jodi Capeless, as the stage manager, B.J., who while Feinstein and Dame Edna are changing costumes, sings a brilliant rendition of Kander and Ebb's "And the World Goes Round". Upon meeting the handsome Miss Capeless, Dame Edna asks her name, "B.J.", she replies. "What is that short for?" Dame Edna inquires, horrified. "Barbara Jo." "I'll call you, B.J." Dame Edna retorts. Moreover, so much of Dame Edna's humor is in "her" look, the rubbery mouth that when contorted in such a way provides an expression that leaves people falling in the aisles. The only time people were not looking at the stage was when people were looking away because they were laughing too hard. Therein lies the only problem for director Casey Nicholaw, Dame Edna has a tendency to overpower her co-star. In fact, two programs are handed out, one with Dame Edna's photograph and one with Feintstein's, and it's either got to be All About Me or All About We and the perfect rhythm between the two has yet to be established, but it is an incredible evening, regardless.
All About Me
Starring Dame Edna Everage and Michael Feinstein With Gregory Butler, Jon-Paul Mateo and Jodi Capeless
Henry Miller's Theatre, 124 West 43rd Street (between Broadway and 6th Avenue)
For Tickets, dial Telecharge 212.239.6200.
Performances thru 18 July, 2010
Running Time: Ninety minutes, with no intermission.