Self-proclaimed Australian "gigastar" Dame Edna Everage (a.k.a. actor Barry Humphries) has been entertaining audiences in her homeland and elsewhere since the 1970's via stage shows and television appearances. Her latest production, Dame Edna: My First Last Tour, is playing now through June 21 at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. I attended the opening night alongside celebrities that included Angelica Huston and Judge Judy.
Subtitled "A meditation on gender and post-election trauma," it showcases Dame Edna's penchants for flamboyant fashion, purple hair, gladiolas, and embarrassing audience members. In fact, there is much more of the latter than in past performances I've seen, so much so that after 20 minutes it becomes the show.
My First Last Tour doesn't feature as many of the often-hysterical personal revelations that have characterized Dame Edna's prior productions. Those that are included are mostly carry-overs from the past. There is a funny opening video "exposé" of the star's "dark side," which notes her discomfort feeding the poor with Mother Teresa and a secret dalliance with Osama bin Laden. However, once Edna appeared on stage and following an opening song — accompanied by faithful musical companion Andrew Ross — her focus turned to the audience and stayed there for the remainder of the evening. I couldn't help but get the impression that, after 30+ years, Edna/Humphries had run out of material.
It might have been more entertaining if the five or six audience members Edna chose to pick on opening night (who didn't seem to have been chosen in advance) had themselves been more interesting. They were chiefly older, upper-class housewives who didn't have a lot to say about themselves. The most knowing and audience-pleasing line of questioning Edna employed on one of them, who stated she lived in Beverly Hills, was whether she lived "on the north side or the south side of Wilshire Boulevard"!
Erin-Kate Whitcomb has a supporting role as Edna's daughter, Valmai. Recently released from prison and potentially lesbian, Valmai doesn't have much to do apart from singing a funny rendition of "The Girl from Impanema" and moving furniture on- and off-stage.
While Dame Edna: My First Last Tour is certainly amusing and isn't a waste of time for her legion of fans, the show has an air of tiredness and even finality about it. This was confirmed when Barry Humphries came out sans Edna drag for the curtain call which, to my knowledge, he has never done before.
If it turns out that Dame Edna's run is over, it has been an immensely enjoyable one. For sure, her gay fans (a.k.a. "Friends of Kenny") especially will never forget her.
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.