On Stage: Dame Edna's Glorious Goodbye

Gladiolas, sparkly dresses, and razor wit receive their royal due, at The Ahmanson.

Live comedy boasts as many flavors as an ice cream shop, and, like an ice cream shop, some flavors of funny tend towards the trendy.

Comedy that's arch, and keeps an audience at an irony-clad distance, has had its recent day, and coarser comedy, too. But then there's that timeless and not-easy brand of humor that draws people in, with charm. The performer coos at the audience, purrs over them and pets them, only to deliver a zowie of a zinger or timely truth once everyone present is in a soft-hearted state. And kapow: comedy gold ensues.

Meet the ultimate mistress of the formidable form, Dame Edna Everage. She's been glittering-up (and gladiola-ing-up) stages from Melbourne to everywhere for nearly six decades, flirting with audiences as she nimbly deconstructs celebrity culture, the cult of self, material wealth and the lust for fame. 

That nimble, not-always-nice-but-so-trenchant deconstruction is going on now, at The Ahmanson, through March 15, 2015. Simon Phillips is the director of the Farewell Tour show, there are dancers, a pianist, and flowers. Many, many flowers.

Which all means royalty is in town, live and on the stage. Though no tickertape parades are planned in LA at this time, let us pause to doff our hats, and sparkly eyeglasses, to Barry Humphries, the Dame's fearless and benevolent bringer-to-lifer.

Mr. Humphries might be her avatar, or she is, but whatever the magic, it has captivated everyone from actual royalty -- hello, Prince Charles -- to Robin Williams, Susan Sarandon, Nicole Kidman, and a full coterie of cinematic greats, legends that the Dame has never, ever let off the hook, just because they're famous. If anything, she reaches for the stove knob and turns it up when celebrity is near.

Oh, did we say "actual royalty" there? Dame Edna might tut-tut us for that unfortunate slip, if we were sitting in her front row. Be warned that the good lady likes to interact with her adoring fans during her one-dame show, and those interactions brim with a mix of merriment and malice, a mixture that causes both the audience member who has been singled out and the rest of the crowd to shift in their seats.

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Mr. Humphries, by the by, honed his chops back in the craft-focused, music-hall-humor days of the 1960s England, alongside icons like Dudley Moore and Peter Cook. It's a style of sweet heat comedy -- start gently, but keep the dropper of poison close -- that's as satirical and saucy as ever.

Oh yes: Dame Edna is indeed saucy, which may lead to some wink-wink comparison jokes to the gladiola stems handed out at the close of the show. But after so many years on the road, with only jewels, the adoring public, tasteful frocks, and many suitors to keep her company, the Dame can dish it however she likes.

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