SHN brings Dame Edna to town

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He may be the funniest woman in the world.  There’s no contradiction in that assertion.  The “he” of it is Australian actor Barry Humphries, white the “woman” (and what a woman!) is his vivid stage persona, Dame Edna Everage, she of the violet hair, the cinemascope eyeglasses, and the arsenic tongue.

As Dame Edna crows as she takes possession of the Orpheum Theater stage under SHN auspices, in what she insists is her farewell visit to the city that gave her a kickstart into fame many years ago, “I had to learn to love me, and I succeeded beyond my wildest dreams!” 

Strapped into a series of luridly technicolor gowns, la Everage spends most of her show chewing up audience members and spitting them out–and they love it.  She sends furtive hand signals to the mutes in the box seats, she makes fun of the people in the cheap seats, whom she calls “Les Miserables”, and of the senior citizens blinking up at her, clueless to what’s going on, she assures us with one of her slyly crooked smiles that at least, “they can enjoy the color and movement.”

She disses her family: her deceased husband, who died of complications from a “prostate murmur,” as well as her disappointing kids.  Kenny is a “man’s man” who is into flower arranging and choreography and has “lots of friends in San Francisco.” Brucie is an entrepreneur who markets “reconditioned marital aids.”  (“Entrepreneur” Edna whispers in an aside, is French for “failure.”)  Then there’s her disappointing daughter whose girl friend has so many piercings that, when a breeze blows by, she whistles.

Political correctness gets short shrift.  Edna recalls the time Bill Cosby tried to freshen her drink, and as for Jesus Christ, his main importance to the apostles was in providing them with the raw material for “four best sellers.”

How does she get away with it?  We know it’s an act, maybe the best drag act ever, and when we’re aware that a brilliant invention like Dame Edna is just kidding, we don’t get mad, we give in and laugh.  This is Edna’s fourth visit to San Francisco, and her show is more of the same: scurrilous attacks on innocent bystanders, most of whom would like nothing better than a selfie with their detractor.  In this enterprise Dame Edna is  supported onstage by musical director and accompanist, Jonathan Tessero, and a quartet of lithe dancers: Ralph Coppola, Brooke Pascoe, Eve Prideaux and Armando Yearwood Jr.

Actor Barry Humphries disappears into his larger than life “megastar” with such easy grace that he’s a pleasure to watch.  Has anyone ever wrung such delectable changes on warm insincerity?  After the show one of my theater companions commented that, five minutes after the star showed up, her face started hurting from laughing.  Ah, the pain you love to enjoy!

We’ll miss this dame.

Upcoming shows in SHN’s 2015 season: Matilda, Phantom of the Opera, The Book of Mormon.  For tickets/information call 666-746-1799 or visit