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Dame Edna

Back With a Vengeance

As I sat in the Curran Theatre on the opening night of Dame Edna: Back With a Vengeance I felt the anticipation no other city could give the celebrated performer and provocateur. Two TestEdnarones, the Dame's glam boys, guarded the stage as Jan Wahl, Michael Tilson Thomas, various SF socialites and a parade of bejeweled Madames schmoozed in the audience.

The lights dimmed and the curtains opened to reveal Dame Edna on a pair of twinkling magenta glasses upon which she descends in her oh-so-glamorous sequined fuscia dress. The pre-Broadway show opener had all of the hoo-haw: song and dance from the Ednaettes and Ednarones with the Dame in the middle where you would expect with high kicks from almost all. Then it was down to business.

"I don't pick on people, I empower them. A little bit of tough love." As she gave a good tongue lashing to Bush and the fact that the empty seats were just senior subscribers who had died, the audience got ready for their turn. The joy of seeing Dame Edna is that she teeters on the edge of success and failure in all that she does; there is no middle ground. As she picked people out from the audience to taunt them about bathrooms, boyfriends, outfits, and cities in which they live, the tears from laughing so hard were also mixed with a bit of relief that I was reviewing the show and not a subject of her folly.

At one point she called a young couple to the stage, the woman was practically having contractions right then and there. Dame Edna wanted to discuss their 'marital problems' since, of course, Dame Edna is a licensed therapist. It was a little like a Dame Letterman show only more hilarious. The scenery by Brian Thomson and lighting by Jane Cox perfectly complemented the show without being intrusive or overdone. The costumes designed by Will Goodwin delivered all the glitz and glitter Dame Edna deserves.

The one problem with teetering on the edge is the chance of falling flat. And during the two and a half hour show I did find myself not as engaged as I would have liked, particularly during the Dame Edna family sequences. Perhaps it was because the 'reality show' portion and audience participation scenes were so over the top that the rest paled in comparison. Another scene had audience members cooking dinner on stage while Dame Edna leaves the stage and says, 'Oh, I'll be back in 45 minutes or so." The audience sits there and has no idea when she will come back. Dame Edna certainly knows how to use the magic of a live audience to her fullest. The problem is that if you aptly get the audience to climb into the palm of your hand and walk the tight rope with you, it is all the more painful when you fall off. The show needs editing and pacing which makes the whole experience less than it could be.