Edna Everage is on top of her game with her First Last Tour at Bass
Honestly, I never got Dame Edna Everage. She always seemed a relic from "Hollywood Squares" that everyone else found hilarious. A guy in sparkly drag being funny? Ha-ha. Ho-hum. Yawn.
Yet I found myself heading to her show at the Bass Performance Hall. This was clearly the halfway mark to coming full circle with the Dame.
As the lights dim on deep purple curtains of Bass Hall, Edna’s voice coos over the speakers. She is running late, she explains from her limousine, but still has the presence of mind to warn about text messaging and flash photography. It was kind of fabulous.
Then Dame Edna’s "True Hollywood Story," a faux biography film, shows the old dame is hip to modern entertainment.
It was here that my conversion officially began.
A fuschia number adorned with shimmering silver trim, she is loud to look at. Gaudy at every angle, she still rings of a time gone by but quickly in the show she has referenced Facebook, hilariously handled latecomers and teased the paupers in the cheap seats. (That was me.)
Her timing, though, is spot-on. With only an accompanist, she’s a master of audience control. Plus, she was, dare I say, funny. Wonderfully funny.
For comedians, it would be easy to stay topical by picking on Lindsay and Britney; Edna never goes there. Her jokes are smart and biting but never mean. Most of the show though centered on her talking to front-row audience members — questions about people’s homes and their clothes were akin to those of a savvy talk show host.
Her "daughter" Valmai (played by Erin-Kate Whitcomb) appears occasionally, weaving in and out of the show, but for the most part, it was a distraction.
While her daughter is a dysfunctional mess, her favoritism toward her "man’s man" son, Kenny, is hilarious. She bursts into "Friends of Kenny" (complete with sing-along) where she worships her son and enjoys "meeting all the Latino men" that are his friends. A clever moment on opening night came when Edna joked about giving George W. Bush an atlas in which "he couldn’t locate ‘Overseas.’" A gentleman walked out. "I guess all the Republicans left," she uttered without blinking. "He looked like a friend of Kenny." The audience roared. It was a priceless improvised moment.
One bit where she invites audience members onstage is an improvisational dream as three women and one man (known only as "Senior Citizen") endure Edna’s cheeky interview. Edna’s signature ending is where she showers the audience with her imported gladioli.
By the end not only had I laughed, I guffawed. Who does that anymore? After the standing ovation, I headed to the merch table for a t-shirt and a $20 pair of Dame Edna glasses. Proof enough; this naysayer was converted into a Dame Edna fan.
Bass Performance Hall, 525 Commerce St., Fort Worth. Through June 28. Friday-Saturday at 8 p.m., weekend matinees at 2 p.m. $25â€“$69. 817-212-4280. Basshall.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 26, 2009.