There is nothing like Dame Edna 

click to enlarge In her “Farewell Tour” onstage at the Orpheum Theatre, Dame Edna tells tales of her spiritual awakening in India. - COURTESY  PHOTO
  • COURTESY PHOTO
  • In her “Farewell Tour” onstage at the Orpheum Theatre, Dame Edna tells tales of her spiritual awakening in India.
Dame Edna, the Melbourne housewife turned international mega-star, made an impromptu aside at the Orpheum Theatre in Tuesday’s opening night performance of her new show. “I’m making this up as I go along,” she said gleefully. “I wouldn’t insult you with a rehearsed show.”

Edna’s freewheeling improvisational style is indeed her hallmark. Brilliant comic timing, withering glances, and merciless put-downs are her specialties, and she wields them with hilarious abandon.

So if the new show, “Dame Edna’s Glorious Goodbye - The Farewell Tour,” has moments that feel awfully familiar from her previous San Francisco outings, no one in the audience, from her beloved “possums” to the “paupers” in the cheap seats, seemed to mind.

It’s sad to contemplate, but it appears this will be Edna’s final appearance in The City – unless it’s not. Tuesday’s performance left room for doubt, even as it reaffirmed Edna’s mega-comic powers.

Edna Everage, of course, is the alter ego of Australian actor Barry Humphries, who created her in 1955 and has been playing her ever since. She’s one of the wonders of the theater world. Imperious, larger than life, decked out in a shellacked mauve wig, cat’s-eye glasses and a series of garish frocks, she’s a master of self-aggrandizement and the cheerful mocking of her inferiors – which includes just about everyone.

The new show, directed by Simon Phillips, returns to previous material. The first half begins with tabloid video clips documenting her rise to fame. Then Edna engages with select audience members, assessing where they live and how they dress. "She's saved a fortune on clothes," she says of one.

She also gives updates on her dysfunctional family – her daughter Valmai, who’s currently living in Visitation Valley with her partner and their 12 pitbulls; her unlucky son, Kenny; and Edna’s mother, stowed away in a “maximum security retirement village.”

Four dancers join her on musical numbers, accompanied by Jonathan Tessero, including songs by Wayne Barker such as "Me Time," a paean to – who else? – Edna. The second half recounts Edna’s recent trip to India, where she spent time in a spiritual ashram, sipping kale and parsnip smoothies and rubbing elbows with celebrity types like the Dalai Lama and Oprah.

She picked up a Balinese boy toy, and learned to discard “the vulgar trappings of success,” she says, tossing a bejeweled bangle to a fan (she takes it back a few minutes later.)

As part of her newfound power, she brings a couple up from the audience and marries them onstage. The show ends in a shower of gladioli, Edna’s signature flower – and an elegant coda by Humphries himself, who suggests that perhaps we haven’t seen the last of Edna.

REVIEW

Dame Edna’s Glorious Goodbye: The Farewell Tour

Presented by SHN

Where: SHN Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St., S.F.

When: 7:30 p.m. March 18-19, 8 p.m. March 20, 2 and 8 p.m. March 21, 2 p.m. March 22

Tickets: $40 to $210

Contact: (888) 746-1799, www.shnsf.com

About The Author

Georgia Rowe

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