Thursday, December 21, 2006

Barry Humphries & Friends: Back With A Vengeance! (The SOB Review) - Arts Centre, State Theatre, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Barry Humphries & Friends: Back With A Vengeance! (The SOB Review) - Arts Centre, State Theatre, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

***1/2 (out of ****)

Soundly disproving the theory that you can't go home again, Barry Humphries has made a triumphant return to his hometown of Melbourne through Barry Humphries & Friends -- Back With A Vengeance!

His new production that stretches a quick three hours not only solidly engages Dame Edna Everage devotees, but provides first-timers with an outstanding introduction to his most beloved character along with two who are primarily known only to Aussies: Les Patterson and Sandy Stone.

For anyone who saw the Broadway production of Dame Edna: Back With A Vengeance, they'd likely be pleasantly surprised that this show is dramatically different from that incarnation than Dame Edna: The Royal Tour from 2000. That's because it's Barry Humphries who seems to be calling the shots rather than his "gigastar" housewife.

Yes, there's plenty of the biting humor involving the audience, but this production also features the ribald, spitting satire of Humphries' Les Patterson skewering Aussie politicians and the poignant subtlety of the deceased Sandy Stone, whose watchful eye on his wife from above provides an insight into today's Australian psyche one never quite learns from the Great Dame.

But then there's Dame Edna herself, in all of her glory. Indeed, 2006 marks Melbourne's "Celebration of 50 Golden Years of Dame Edna" as part of the city's Ednafest, that includes everything from a mock-up of Dame Edna's home in a museum-like display called Ednaville to a wonderful montage of Edna clips in "Virtual Edna" at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image -- all in Melbourne.

True to form, Dame Edna sings, "I'm fifty. Fifty years up on the boards, fifty million compliments, plaudits and awards, and although of course it's tasteless to ask a woman's age, I'm proud to say, I'm fifty on the stage."

Despite the nearly three hours running time, this was one show that I didn't want to end thanks to the ingenious wit and wisdom from one of Austalia's true treasures, Barry Humphries. And fortunately, Humphries himself takes the final curtain call bow.

The current production is slated to run through February 11, 2007. A must-see for anyone traveling -- or living -- Down Under!

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.

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