Dame Edna Everage, drag alter-ego of Australian writer/actor Barry Humphries, has enjoyed great success with her solo shows in Australia, Great Britain and the U.S. She has received numerous awards for her appearances on TV, at Royal Albert Hall, and on Broadway. Dame Edna's bio states:
Possibly Jewish, Dame Edna is a widow, with three grown children. She spends her time visiting world leaders and jet-setting between her homes in Malibu, Mayfair, Melbourne, Montreux, and Martha's Vineyard. She is the Founder and Governor of 'Friends of the Prostate' and the creator of the World Prostate Olympics.
... and she gets away with the most politically incorrect, impudent, and presumptuous behavior ever to grace the stage. Not only does she get away with it, but the audience howls with laughter and adores her. If ever there was a comedy performance that provided mass cathartic release by laughter, this is it. Perhaps those in the front rows won't agree (more on that later), but this violet-haired, jeweled spectacled Dame is simply hilarious.
This tour has been on the road for many months, but the Dame freshens her material at each stop with local references galore. She does her homework, and it really brings the audience closer (the repeated misnaming of Heinz Hall drew many laughs - The Campbell's Soup Auditorium, etc.). You can't get much closer than the orchestra pit, which is where Dame Edna finds her "victims" in Pittsburgh. She singles out audience members for comedy bits which are mostly at the audience members' expense. With Dame Edna's infectious grin, and equally infectious mugging, it is hard to see this in-your-face humor as cruel. The victims are rewarded with gifts, an instant camera picture with Dame Edna, and a hug and a kiss, but it doesn't really matter - they are laughing just as hard as the rest of the audience.
Though it did not succeed on opening night, a favorite bit of the Dame's is to bring a couple on stage and call a relative or babysitter for more laughs (if it's a surprise to be pulled from the audience, I can only imagine what it would like to encounter the Dame via telephone). She also orders dinner for a couple in the first act, and has it served in the second act. They are encouraged to eat and drink, but do so with great difficulty as the Dame joins the couple at the table, crossing her lovely, long longs through a slit skirt, and continues her outlandish stories. Some stories have been with her show since the Broadway run, but there is enough sprucing up and adjusting for the current audience so that the show is never a complete repeat.
Dame Edna prides herself on being a Megastar and this production emphasizes that, with a multi-media introduction, multiple elaborate costumes, and several "production numbers" with her accompanying showgirls (Teri DiGianfelice and Michelle Pampena, the Ednaettes). Providing piano accompaniment is the talented Wayne Barker "The Fingers on the Keyboards."
A Night with Dame Edna is a night you'll never forget, but you may forget your worries as you simply sit back and laugh. The show runs through October 12 at Heinz Hall, Sixth Street at Penn Avenue. For ticket information, call (412) 392-4900 or visit www.pittsburghsymphony.org.