Dame Edna Everage’s uniquely withering brand of good will is back in “Live and Intimate!”, billed as “my first last tour” before a retirement that promises to be yea more ephemeral than Cher’s. Business-as-usual in a good way, this typical evening of genteel audience grilling and occasional song should pull in plenty of prior converts and their friends on the road for months to come.Though she took her time getting here, Barry Humphries’ Aussie creation is by now a familiar figure Stateside. In fact “Intimate!” marks the 10th anniversary of her first U.S. tour, likewise commenced at Post Street Theater (then called Theater on the Square). Little has changed, though this edition does have its novel fillip or three. Funny video assemblages (not credited in the program) open each act, the first being a scandalous “Behind the Music”-style expose of the supposedly nefarious Dame’s manipulative, murky, possibly murderous rise to fame. She enters in a hurry to cut off that transmission, which surly, butch, prison-jumpsuit-clad daughter Valmai (local thesp Erin-Kate Whitcomb) has prankishly substituted for the intended slavish video homage — which is duly played after intermission. The Dame’s mostly mute offspring is grudgingly allowed her moment in the spotlight later, as she bellows a Sapphic rendition of “The Girl From Ipanema.” Evening’s majority, however, consists as ever of our naturally mauve-haired star “empowering” audience members with the requisite backhanded flattery — blunt observations (“You’ve aged tragically”), eye-rolling asides and other humiliations. The victims, most of whom know what they’re in for, seem more to delight in than dread their public roasting over sartorial style and lifestyle choices. Of course, it’s the luck of the draw. On the night reviewed, Edna’s picks for a second-act ersatz talkshow pilot were a collective dud, with one tiresome chatterbox and three bland good sports offering scant fodder for her poisonous verbal arrows. Earlier, her shotgun marriage ceremony for two alleged soulmates — a young gay man and much older woman — fizzled when attempts to call their relatives onstage and break the news ended up in voicemail. Nonetheless, it is a tribute to Humphries’ improvisational skills that no matter how familiar Dame Edna’s shtick has grown, she remains fairly hilarious company. One doubts she will retire anytime soon, at least not until the performer’s gladiola-flinging arm gives out entirely. (At 74 years old, his pitch no longer gets past the third row.) Pianist and occasional anecdote-prompter Andrew Ross accompanies the lady on several songs, two old favorites (the gladiola anthem and “Friends of Kenny,” about her closeted son’s penchant for male companionship) and two worthy newbies. The suitably garish pastel lighting and sub-Bob Mackie gowns are spot-on. Ruse of a janitor sweeping stage at beginning and end of each act finally allows star to take curtain call as his non-drag self. Show is variably billed on various program and press materials under title given, plus “Dame Edna: My First Last Tour” and “Dame Edna — Live and Intimate in Her First Last Tour.”
Post Street Theater, San Francisco; 740 seats; $78 top
A Post Street Theater presentation in association with Wombat of a performance in two acts by Barry Humphries. Additional material, Andrew Ross.
Costumes, John Van Gastel, Stephen Adnitt; lighting, Thomas Hague; sound, Elton P. Halley; hair stylist, Marcus Fokken; production stage manager, James W. Gibbs. Opened Nov. 23, 2008. Reviewed Nov. 26. Running time: 2 HOURS, 20 MIN.
With: Barry Humphries, Andrew Ross, Erin-Kate Whitcomb.