All About Me
nytheatre.com review by Jo Ann Rosen
March 23, 2010
There are so many positive things to recommend All About Me. To quibble about throwing Michael Feinstein, the ubiquitous and popular cabaret singer, and Barry Humphries, the riotous Dame Edna Everage, together on the stage is the equivalent of whining about a two-for-one offer. Accept the generous offer and say thank you for an enjoyable evening. Essentially, the show delivers what each does best. And, it does it with style.
Feinstein, who for years has been sharing his passion for the Gershwins, Lerner and Loewe, and Rodgers and Hart in classy cabaret venues like his own Feinstein's at the Regency, makes his first Broadway appearance in nearly two decades with finesse. His entrance is strong and energetic, and his enthusiasm for the songs he has selected is nothing short of contagious. Starting with "Strike Up the Band," all his choices are spot on, including "Great Balls of Fire," which salvages a slow moment in the show. As expected, his delivery is polished and professional.
Barry Humphries makes a splashy entrance as Dame Edna. Decked out in feathers, sequins, and rhinestones, and topped with a signature lilac coif, she, too, easily connects with the audience. As Dame Edna, Humphries plays with the audience in endearing ways, selecting various members for a chat and confidently flinging gentle barbs that are hilarious.
The surprise of the evening is delivered by Jodi Capeless, who plays a humorless stage manager. She dismisses both performers so they can dress for their next numbers and takes over with her perfectly gorgeous voice.
Feinstein and Humphries are an unlikely duo, and the evening requires a plot device to explain why they appear together. It is the storyline, written by Christopher Durang, Humphries, and Feinstein, that gives the evening a stop/start quality that prevents total engagement. It goes something like this. Both Humphries and Feinstein show up to do a show, but the theater is double booked. Initially, the two fight for the stage, gradually they agree to alternate their acts, and ultimately, they end up singing a medley of songs together. What the plot doesn't explain is why this idea got beyond the conception stage. The storyline is thin and disruptive. Audiences come to hear Michael Feinstein sing the great American song book. Just as he's warmed the crowd and the audience settles in for more, the performance stops for transitions to Dame Edna. Dame Edna connects immediately with the audience, and she delivers nicely on the belly laughs. But, again, the play stops for silly antics that aren't as engaging as either of the solo performers. Feinstein's banal conversation plays less successfully on the large stage than in an intimate cabaret setting, although he does an apt job of playing into Dame Edna's hands.
The stage has an aura of sophistication. Anna Louizos's over-the-top set and costumes feature glossy white everything: white stage with white stairs climbing high into the stratosphere, white piano, white setup for Rob Bowman's terrific big band, and white jackets for the musicians (giving Stephen Adnitt's gowns for Dame Edna plenty of room to glitter). Howell Binkley plays wonderfully with pink and purple lighting. And, Peter Fitzgerald delivers fine sound.