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Theatre Review (LA): Dame Edna: “My First Last Tour” by Barry Humphries and Andrew Ross at the Ahmanson Theatre

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Dame Edna, aka Barry Humphries, is back in fine form. The show traces her beginnings back in Australia to her heady days as the “Giga Star” she is today. We are treated to early film clips, some real, many imagined, which present her at various periods in her life and even feature the traditional off-stage characters of Madge; Kenny, her “fabulous son”; Barry Humphries, her manager and enemy; and her daughter Velma who actually appears live in the show. On this trip Dame Edna seems obsessed with the aged, especially older women. Could it be that Edna is feeling her years? She has been around for a long time and though she is "ageless" must be in her 70s.

There is no plot per se, but Edna swirls around the stage singing a few heartfelt though off-key songs, dancing a few steps, but mainly picking people from the audience to "empower them," though some might feel otherwise. Dame Edna has a remarkable way of remembering the stories of all whom she calls up, and will often return to them for an off-the-cuff remark about something they said earlier. Every show is different but at this particular show she relished demolishing the do-nothing LA lifestyle, Angelenos’ obsession with where they live (north or south of Wilshire), and her usual targets of people's clothes, houses, color preferences. (I will never forget her riff on the color beige at another concert). There were some old bits, but also some new, and every audience is different because each audience becomes her show. If you don’t want to be part of it, don’t sit in the first six rows, because you may be picked on and brought on stage. Of course some relish the idea, and Dame Edna knows it.

If you have ever read John Lahr's extraordinary book about Dame Edna and her creator Barry Humphries, Dame Edna Everage and The Rise Of Western Civilization: Backstage with Barry Humphries, you know that Humphries has gone to great lengths to keep Dame Edna separate from Barry. If they have ever been ever seen together, it's because Humphries has hired doubles to act out Edna, to fool and confuse people. Never, but never did they appear together in the same theatre on stage. Humphries has said he hates Dame Edna because she is more famous than he and is quite demanding. Edna has stated that she fears for her life and that Humphries is out to get her. Well, the end of the show is fun but a bit shocking for those in the know. Could it be that this is Edna’s last tour and that Barry will kill her off like he has other characters (mainly Les, who was truly vile)? Stay tuned, but for now enjoy Dame Edna: "My First Last Tour” now at the Ahmanson until June 21.

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