This show is the closest thing to an evening of improv that you'll find on Broadway. Though it includes some consistently funny, scripted patter about Dame Edna's three children, her late husband, etc., the vast bulk of the show is devoted to Edna interacting with the audience and, in particular, with a random handful of ticket-buyers in the first several rows of the orchestra. She plays her patrons like a virtuoso, asking seemingly innocent questions that leave them exposed to her hilarious comments. Her gift is that her jibes are funny yet inoffensive. More than once during the course of a show, she will glibly protest: "I don't pick on people, I empower them." Obviously, much of what she says comes from a grab bag of pre-prepared material, but even these "ad libs" are delivered with such spontaneity that she always makes them seem original. At the performance we attended,she found a 10-year old girl in the audience. With her eyes arched as high as her heels, Dame Edna wondered aloud, "What wonderful parents thought to bring you to THIS show?" The audience howled.
Returning to Broadway after her first triumph here four years ago, Dame Edna is definitely "back with a vengeance." That phrase is not only the subtitle of the show, it's also the title of one of her big musical production numbers. With Edna's charming musical director, Wayne Barker, at the piano, this delightfully nutty disco song features her talented and attractive dancers, "The Gorgeous Ednaettes" (Teri, DiGianFelice, Michelle Pampena) and "The Equally Gorgeous TestEdnarones" (Randy Aaron, Gerrard Carter). In fact all of Edna's original songs are wacky and witty, with lyrics that are sharply observant.
Dame Edna is very much the star of the show, but the entire audience -- not just a handful of people from the first few rows -- is part of the cast. She's not playing TO us; she's playing WITH us. In addition to questioning presumably wealthy people in the orchestra, she comically addresses and refers to the "paupers" in the balcony -- and the paupers, now part of the show, love it. The same inclusiveness occurs during her signature finale, when she tosses gladioli to the audience; not content to reach only the front of the audience, she also hurls the flowers into the balcony.
The show is devised and written by Humphries, with additional material by Andrew Ross and Robert Horn. The set design by Brian Thomson and costumes by Will Goodwin and Stephen Adnitt are complements of splendiferous excess. From a glittering New York City skyline that has nothing to do with actual geography to a dress that includes the Statue of Liberty in its design, the clear intent of every aspect of this show --and the clear result -- is pure fun.