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February 16, 2010

The Odd Couple: Dame Edna and Michael Feinstein unite in theatrical harmony

by Jesse North
When Dame Edna Everage and Michael Feinstein walked into the journalist-filled private room of the Red Eye Grill for their press conference last night, there was a gasp from the crowd. I’m positive it was due to the hulking presence of Ms. Everage, who appears easily over six-feet tall, and the stark contrast to her companion, the rather diminutive Mr. Feinstein. These two entertainers, varying in many ways than merely the physical, were there to promote their Broadway show, All About Me, which begins previews this Sunday.
“I’m not at all sure what I’m here for,” Everage said in her innocent, elderly coo. “People say to me, ‘Edna, what kind of show are you going to do?’ and I say, ‘I never divulge and I never think about what I’m going to do until the minute before I step onto the stage.’”
“I can vouch for that,” Feinstein deadpanned.
This mismatched pair—Feinstein, the pianist/cabaret owner/music archivist, and Dame Edna, the cross-dressing alter ego of comedian Barry Humphries—will open a musical-comedy review on March 18, complete with dance numbers and duets at the Henry Miller’s Theatre. It was publicized that the performers had intended on unveiling separate, solo shows this same Broadway season, but decided to join forces due to lack of theater availability.

***VIDEO AFTER JUMP: Dame Edna heckles an innocent waitress who gets too close***

“The story is really about how we are forced to come together, because we were planning to do separate shows, and the Shubert Organization told us it was necessary to combine forces and do a single show together,” Feinstein said. “This show is really a recounting of part of that process and gives us a chance to re-experience some of the emotions we had during that rather volatile time.”

“It’s a journey. It’s also a meditation on loss,” Everage said. “It’s a story of reconciliation of a tall, attractive Australian woman… and a… an American person.” Everage takes another comical swipe at Feinstein (“It’s like a conversation between two people—one of whom is much more interesting than the other”) before admitting that the pair laughs all the way through their rehearsals.
I saw Dame Edna in her last Broadway stint in December 2005, during the run of Dame Edna: Back With A Vengeance. She was incredibly engaging then, but ever since All About Me’s announcement, I have been skeptical as to whether her shtick would remain fresh. If it’s any indication, Dame Edna had the entire room of journalists in stitches during the press conference, her almost-animatronic eyes darting back and forth as she slingshot each well-timed quip into the air.
All About Me will be a genre standout this spring, against a Broadway slate of revivals and high-concept new musicals. Dame Edna didn’t seem to have a high opinion of the competition facing Feinstein and herself. “We feel that America needs this kind of entertainment. Will you look what’s coming up? Frankly opossums, I don’t want to say anything negative about other shows, because I’m sure that those rumors about The Addams Family are unfounded. Or the umpteenth revival of La Cage.” Everage further mused about one of the creators of the upcoming Frank Sinatra jukebox musical, Come Fly Away. “I’d love to meet Twyla Tharp,” Everage said, putting particular emphasis on the choreographer’s name. “Do you think it means something backwards, if you rearrange the letters?”
Regardless of the big-budget competition, Dame Edna feels confident All About Me will rise to the top. “Michael and I feel very strongly that the United States of America has taken me to their heart. They’ve thrown Tonys at me, and you of course, too,” Everage said, addressing Feinstein, to which he replied, “But they’ve missed me.”

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