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A CurtainUp Review
All About Me

It's not about you. It's about them. They want a show. —the Stage Manager trying to negotiate a truce between Dame Edna Everage and Michael Feinstein battle for being the ME of All About Me.
All About Me
Barry Humphries (Dame Edna) and Michael Feinstein
(Photo: Joan Marcus)
The Stage Manager (Jodi Capless) is the deus ex machina to negotiate a truce in the battle between Michael Feinstein and Dame Edna as to who will be the ME of All About Me. Actually, when she shoos Feinstein and the Dame off stage and suddenly does her own diva turn with a rousing "And the World Goes 'Round" she provides this gimmick propelled show, which seems better suited to a Las Vegas club than the elegant new Henry Miller Theater, with it's one genuinely surprising and original moment.

So why does the truce Stage Manager Capless negotiates between the battling soft voiced American Songbook champion and the brassy champion of glitz, self adoration and audience insult come off so lame and phony? Quite simply Vive La Difference just doesn't fit this misconceived mash-up.

Matching the petite and subtle song interpreter with Australia's decidedly unsubtle drag satirist was something of a match made in publicity heaven. And the publicists for All About Me made a feast of the mock feud prompted by each of these very different divas planning a similarly named Broadway show, opening around the same time. Attention getting statements were issued from both camps:" Titles are not copyrightable. I wish Ms. Edna well. I've heard of her," was a Feinstein salvo. Not to be undone, the Dame declared "Someone purchased a CD of Mr. Feinstein's at a flea market in Australia and re-gifted it to me recently. I'm impressed at how often he sings on key." No sooner were the various missives duly noted in the press than publicists announced a merger — which of course was everyone's intent all along.

Unfortunately, All About Me is tethered to that feud gimmick. The matchmakers who thought bringing Dame Edna and Feinstein together would be double the fun rolled into one for both Dame Edna's and Feinstein's fans miscalculated. Unlike other successfully mismatched duos like Mutt and Jeff and Abbot and Costello, Dame Edna and Feinstein are terminally incompatible. Edna is not just bigger physically, but her brand of comedy is more suited to a big stage, Feinstein belongs at the piano in a concert or cabaret setting who sings well, expertly tickles the ivories, but falls short as a comedian. This dooms him to getting the short end of thie mostly unfunny and tiresome gag.

The band perched on Anna Louizos' wannabe Busby Berkeley set in a ghastly shade of bluish lavender (to match the Dame's bouffant wig?) plays energetically but too loudly. The usually astute director Casey Nicholow (The Drowsy Chaperone, Spamalot) has exacerbated the irresolvable differences that doom the show's ultimate shift from ME to WE by dividing the 90 minutes into two solo segments and the final getting together (at least physically and in song, if not with any convincing chemistry).

After an All About Feinstein opening which somehow feels out of place in this setting and does little to showcase his assets, Dame Edna takes over. And does she ever!

Given that this really is all about THEM (her and Feinstein) her shtick, which you can't help laughing at, is limited by the need to leave room for Feinstein's song and cabaret-ish patter. This might be a good thing considering that it's pretty much Edna-as-ever, except for some smashing new gowns by Stephen Adnitt and a nod to timeliness (she takes on Madonna's Nambian baby, the Madoff scam, and the flood of Sondheim tributes; the latter including a mean spirited sendup of Sondheim and Elaine Stritch in a "Ladies Who Lunch" riff. She also renames the "paupers" in the balcony as the "Nouveau Pouvre.")

Somehow Edna's shtick, even if mostly more of the same, works better when all about Edna. When Feinstein, whom she's chased off stage for her de-calorized solo, insists on coming back the gimmicky matchmaking device doesn't do any great favors for either Dame Edna or Feinstein.

It's hard to assess what playwright Christopher Durang contributed to the script since there are other script and concept credits. Backup dancers Gregory Butler and Jon-Paul Mateo add to the Las Vegas aura. The nine original songs include a fun Feinstein number, "The Gladdy Song," which, of course leads to a classic Edna finale with both stars tossing long-stemmed gladiolas into the audience, and landing a few in the side balconies. Too bad that it's only during this cheery end to an otherwise often endless seeming 90 minutes, that Feinstein seems to relax into a more Edna-ish impishness.

Links to reviews of previous Dame Edna shows
Dame Edna: The Royal Tour- 1999
Dame Edna: Back With a Vengeance -2004
All About Me
By Christopher Durang, Michael Feinstein and Barry Humphries; conceived by Mr. Feinstein and Mr. Humphries, with Lizzie Spender and Terrence Flannery
Director & Choreographer: Casey Nicholow
Cast: Michael Feinstein, Barry Humphries/Dame Edna Everage, Gregory Butler (Bruno), Jodi Capeless (Stage Manager) and Jon-Paul Mateo (Benito).
Sets and costumes: Anna Louizos
Lighting: Howell Binkley
Sound: Peter Fitzgerald
Dame Edna's Gowns: by Stephen Adnitt
Video: Chris Cronin
Music supervisor: Rob Bowman
Orchestrations: John Oddo; additional arrangements by Glen Kelly
Music coordinator: Michael Keller
ProductionStage manager: James W. Gibbs
Running Time: 90 Minutes
The Henry Miller 123 W. 43rd Street (212) 239-6200
From 2/22/10; opening 3/18/10; closing 7/18/10
To an early grave-- closing 4/03/10
Tuesday at 7pm, Wednesday through Saturday at 8 pm, Wednesday and Saturday at 2 pm, Sunday at 3 pm.
Tickets: $$49.50-$126.50
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer: March 23rd

Original Songs
Make That Piano Sing /Music by Matthew Sklar, lyrics by Chad Beguelin
Niceness /Music by Nick Rowlcy, lyrics by Barry Humphricn
We Get Along Amazingly Well / Music by Michael Feinstein, lyrics by Glen Kelly and Barry Numphrics
I'm Forcing Myself/ Music ny Wayne Barker. lyrics by Barry Humphries
The Dingo Ate My Baby /Music by Michael Feinstein, lyrics by Barry Humphries
The Koala Song /Music and lyrics by Michael Feinstein
Medley Song Music and lyrics by Michael Feinstein
All About Me /Music by Matthew Sklar, lyrics by Chad Beguelin
The Gladdy Sane /Music by Michael Feinstein, lyrics by Barry Humphries and Michael Feinstein
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