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All About Me

This unlikely pairing of Dame Edna Everage and Michael Feinstein is rarely more than mildly diverting.

By New York City
Michael Feinstein and Dame Edna
in All About Me
(© Joan Marcus)
Michael Feinstein and Dame Edna
in All About Me
(© Joan Marcus)
In the rapidly receding days of early network television, variety hours were regularly scheduled -- perhaps the most famous being the 1953 Ford Motor Company's 50th anniversary show featuring Ethel Merman and Mary Martin sailing through a 13-minute greatest-hits medley. So imagine a show back then pairing Milton Berle, always famous for his drag routines, and chart-topper Eddie Fisher, and you've conjured something like the mildly diverting All About Me, a sort of shotgun-wedding teaming of Barry Humphries as ribald Dame Edna Everage and Michael Feinstein as his ebullient self, at the Henry Miller's Theatre.

The show's it's-all-about-me conceit -- which supposes that Edna and Feinstein have both booked the same theater on the same night for their respective solo shows -- seems tired even before it begins. After kicking off the show with some of the George and Ira Gershwin tunes he adores, Feinstein is then interrupted by Edna at the end of "The Lady is a Tramp." Then, after Edna does her own solo schtick -- on Anna Louizos' all-white TV-special set -- the pair fritter away time finding a way to coexist. (This may be part of the show that playwright Christopher Durang was called in to cobble, but it's hard to be sure.)

It's during this segment, as well, that tough-looking Jodi Capeless shows up as a stage manager refereeing the contrived contretemps. After absorbing a few Dame Edna put-downs, she lets go with the John Kander-Fred Ebb standard "And the World Goes Round" -- and gets the production's biggest ovation -- before Feinstein and Edna reunite for the remainder of the 90-minute production.

Whether using his cabaret croon or his big-band baritone, Feinstein has turned himself into one of today's handful of great pop singers. For this show, he demonstrates his prowess on "My Romance" and "What Did I Have That I Don't Have," with Rob Berman strenuously leading a 12-man combo. He's also off-the-cuff funny and a whiz at impersonations, such as the Paul Lynde one he demonstrates here. Plus, he's put his name on a few original ditties that are heard on stage -- one a gladioli sing-along about which the less said the better.

Humphries' saccharine-sweet yet insulting Dame Edna is another memorable invention. The lady's put-downs of everything and everybody -- several of whom she locates in the audience -- only pall when the material is familiar. When she's up-to-date, though, it's hoot-larious -- like a send-up of Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)," which she delivers between two strapping, swishy chorus boys (Gregory Butler and John-Paul Mateo) imitating the much-watched video's dance moves.

Watching Edna in one of her outrageously feathered ensembles doing Stephen Sondheim's "The Ladies Who Lunch" is another perker-upper, although maybe she could have poked more fun at the famous tune. She does rib Sondheim, though, when she says she's "not convinced" he wrote the Upper East Side lament she's tackling, noting in passing that it's 'too catchy."

The show then ends with a Merman-Martin-like medley that has propulsion but no pizzazz -- a reflection of much of All About Me's fair-to-middlin' quality.


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