All About Me -- Theater Review

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Maybe it looked good on paper.

Crooner Michael Feinstein and comedian Dame Edna (aka Barry Humphries) have each headlined successful Broadway outings on their own. But combining them in this ill-conceived hybrid of music and humor turns out to be an interesting idea that falls flat in execution. Despite each of the performer's considerable talents and the participation of playwright Christopher Durang ("Marriage of Bette and Boo," "Beyond Therapy"), "All About Me" turns out to be considerably less than the sum of its parts.

The cleverest aspect out to have been the advance publicity, featuring the two performers comically warring in the press. The separate Playbills spotlighting each headliner as if the other wasn't involved are a funny touch as well.

But this oil-and-water hybrid is pretty much doomed from the get-go. After a fake "overture" featuring Broadway classics spanning the decades, Feinstein begins the evening by ably performing several numbers from the Great American Songbook (or "Rod Stewart Songbook," as he comically refers to it), including "My Romance" and "The Lady Is a Tramp."

Suddenly, he's interrupted by the formidable Dame Edna, wearing a dress spangly enough to blind members of the audience. Employing her team of physically imposing security guards, Bruno (Gregory Butler) and Benito (Jon-Paul Mateo), she has the protesting singer physically removed from the stage.

For a while, the proceedings take on a vaudeville-like quality, with Feinstein frantically running around the stage pursued by the hulking duo while Dame Edna attempts to get on with her act. A formidable female stage manager (Jodi Capeless) attempts to serve as referee before getting her own turn in the spotlight with a terrific rendition of "And the World Goes Round."
Dame Edna's many fans will be disappointed only by the brevity of her act -- the entire show runs 90 minutes -- which again displays Humphries' formidable comic chops. Particularly priceless was one conversation with an audience member who kept mournfully referring to her home that was damaged by a recent storm. "Fancy me finding grief where I was looking for humor," Dame Edna parried in nimble fashion.

Unfortunately, much of the evening consists of forced banter between the mismatched stars, who, truth be told, don't even appear to like each other all that much. What the show mainly demonstrates is that Feinstein isn't much of a comedian, and Dame Edna, bless her, isn't much of a singer. Her "Ladies Who Lunch" won't be causing Elaine Stritch any sleepless nights.

By the time the show concludes with the pair dueting on a medley of songs ranging from, I kid you not, Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" to "Ol' Man River," it has long become apparent that getting two stars for the price of one isn't such a bargain after all.

Venue: Henry Miller's Theatre, New York (Runs indefinitely)
Cast: Dame Edna, Michael Feinstein, Gregory Butler, Jodi Capeless, Jan-Paul Mateo
Playwrights: Christopher Durang, Michael Feinstein, Barry Humphries
Conceived by: Michael Feinstein and Barry Humphries with Lizzie Spender and Terrence Flannery
Director: Casey Nicholaw
Scenic/costume designer: Anna Louizos
Lighting designer: Howell Binkley
Sound designer: Peter Fitzgerald
Presented by Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, Eagle Productions LLC, Jamie deRoy/Remmel T. Dickinson, Richard Winkler/Dan Frishwasser, Mallory Factor, Cheryl Lachowicz, Chris Yegen, Judith Resnick, Jon Bierman, Christopher Hart Productions, CTM Media Group, Stewart F. Lane/Bonnie Comley, Michael Filerman, Barry & Carole Kaye/Irv Welzer, Terry Allen Kramer, Terrie J. Lootens, Stein & Gunderson Productions, WenSheJack Productions and Mickey Cohen
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