note: entire contents copyright 2011 by Carl A. Rossi
Near the end of THE EDWARDS TWINS, a wonderful (and wondrous) revue of male and female impersonations, Eddie Edwards enters as Dusty Springfield to sing about his father’s disapproval towards what he does for a living; the emotional peeling away is soon joined by a visual one, concluding with Mr. Edwards in shirt and pants, singing in his natural register about his father’s belated acceptance. I wondered how an Elizabethan audience would have reacted had Shakespeare’s boy-Juliet removed his wig to announce, “Father sayeth what I doeth be wrong”, considering that women have only been onstage for the past 500 years or so --- prior to that, male-actresses were the norm (there was little, if any, physical lovemaking in pre-Restoration plays --- the spoken word predominated). It was only after women had gained respectability, onstage, that male-actresses began to lose theirs --- their professional lives automatically defining their personal ones; in time, they were labeled “drag queens” --- a derogatory term which needn’t be so derogatory should you take that phrase apart. “Drag” is British theatre-slang for the period dresses that 19th century male-actresses wore onstage, dragging their trains behind them, and what is a “queen” but the most elevated of women? Thus, a drag queen is a man who excels at playing women’s roles in full regalia --- paradoxically, it is only when he fails in his illusion that an audience will question why does he do what he does? Mr. Edwards excels with brilliance, with taste and with dignity (not to mention humor and joy); thus, his father-song is a plea for continued approval, this time from his audience. It’s a poignant moment, all right, and capable of making an audience rise to its feet, but hasn’t Mr. Edwards already heard the delighted gasps over each of his entrances and the hearty cheering at the close of his songs?
That said, Mr. Edwards and his identical twin Anthony are astonishing, separately and together --- Eddie does the female roles, and Anthony, the male ones. Publicized as the world’s most talented twins (no argument, here!), this is their second engagement at the Stoneham Theatre (I missed them, the first time) and from their repertoire of 100 impersonations, they trot out Bette Midler, Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand, Andrea Bocelli, Stevie Wonder, Cher (without and with Sonny) and, in an Anthony-medley, Rod Stewart, Dean Martin, Barry Gibb, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles… As artists, what do the Messrs. Edwards bring to the table? Their faces, to be blunt, are of the Mug variety --- Eddie has the advantage of a complex make-up design to transform himself; Anthony must hide in plain sight, for the most part, but his dipping into Stevie Wonder’s skin-color becomes a love-in with the audience (here, I truly believed!). Anthony’s physique is an inverted triangle, tapering to slim hips; Eddie is statuesque, toned but not muscular (the above-mentioned Dusty is a perfect match of his physique and her iconography). And they are blessed with vocal cords of steel, nimbly switching from voice to voice (each, with its distinct sound and demands) and sounding as fresh at the end as they do at the beginning --- Anthony is a baritone with a ringing tenor top; Eddie has a lighter, more flexible instrument --- at the very least, their sounds evoke those being impersonated; when spot-on and combined with the visuals, the results are hair-raising and, in a Streisand-Bocelli duet, stirringly beautiful. The Messrs. Edwards are also actors as their impersonations are well-observed, humane ones, lovingly executed rather than trashed --- no, here is family entertainment (husbands, included), and I left in a nostalgic glow: these are/were my generation’s entertainers, sexy without being HOT HOT HOT, friendly rather than in-your-face, though Eddie’s Cher in a disco garter belt --- with nary a “bump” to be seen --- is a definite eye-opener. (A minor nitpick: the bespectacled young man in black who sets the stage and leads Stevie Wonder to his piano, should be just as spruce as the twins are: as is, his own iconography screams “BACKSTAGE”.)
And the Stoneham audience? On the afternoon that I attended, the packed house cheered, sang along, swayed their arms, left and right, concert-style, and had a jolly good time-trip. One woman (middle-aged, dumpy and plain) stood in the buzzing lobby at intermission, shouting into her cell phone: “Ya gotta come see ‘em --- they’re FANTASTIC!” She had escaped to the Stoneham Theatre for some magic and glamour, just as audiences of the Depression (the OTHER Depression) fled to the movies, and the Messrs. Edwards truly delivered. The brothers will return to the Stoneham, next month, with THAT 70’S SHOW --- “all of your favorite 70’s superstars in 1 show!” Should you go, bring a cynical teenager with you --- and share the magic.