Sunday, December 24, 2006

This Dame's The Deal Down Under

This Dame’s The Deal Down Under

Possums, traveling all the way to Australia for the Holidays, it’s hard to move about the island continent/country without seeing just how iconic Barry Humphries’ most renowned character creations actually is.

Whether it’s flying on Qantas -- “proud supporter” of Barry Humphries’ & Friends: Back With A Vengeance -- or seeing billboards and bus or tram signage with the Great Dame adorning them, Dame Edna Everage is everywhere.

If you’re traveling to Australia over the next couple months and particularly interested in seeing why this character is so particularly revered, then you should make every effort to get to Melbourne. Not only can you take in a performance of the show itself, but you can enjoy many displays within a relatively compact area along the beautiful Yarra River. To understand Dame Edna Everage is to gain an amazing insight into Melbourne and indeed Australia itself.

According to the program notes, Dame Edna is:

Probably the most popular and gifted woman in the world today. Housewife, investigative journalist, social anthropologist, talk show host, swami, children’s book illustrator, megastar, celebrity spin doctor and icon.

With Olivia Newton-John, Kylie Minogue, Nicole Kidman and Dame Joan Sutherland, she is the most prominent of a remarkable succession of female stars to emerge from Australia.

During the 1970s, Dame Edna’s success in her homeland was repeated in Britain with London stage shows including Housewife Superstar! and A Night With Dame Edna. Subsequently, she has performed at London’s Royal Albert Hall and at the prestigious Theatre Royal Drury Lane and the Theatre Royal Haymarket.

Television triumphs include two critically acclaimed UK specials, “An Audience With Dame Edna” and “Another Audience With Dame Edna.” She also hosted two series of her own innovative chat show, “The Dame Edna Experience,” where her past guests have included Jane Fonda, Charlton Heston, Liza Minnelli, Sean Connery, and Mel

Most recently, on Broadway, her sensational vehicle, Dame Edna: The Royal Tour received a Special Tony Award for Live Theatrical Event. The Outer Critics’ Circle has also bestowed upon her a Special Achievement Award. Dame Edna has recorded numerous TV specials, the last of which, “A Night On Mount Edna,” won the foremost European Entertainment Award, the Golden Rose of Montreux in 1991. Edna’s other notable awards include first prize in the San Francisco International Film Festival, a Gold Award at the New York Film and TV Festival, and a British Academy Award Nomination for “The Dame Edna Experience.”

Her books include Dame Edna’s Coffee Table Book, Dame Edna’s Bedside Companion and her seminal autobiography, My Gorgeous Life, which is translated into many languages and which has, on government orders, been placed in hotel bedrooms throughout Britain and Australia.

Possibly Jewish, Dame Edna is a widow, with three grown children. She spends her time visiting World leaders and jet-setting between homes in Malibu, Melbourne,
Montreux and Martha’s Vineyard. She is the Founder and Governor of “Friends of
Prostrate” and the creator of the World Prostrate Olympics. Currently, she has
turned her attention to the deviated septum.

She was featured in David E. Kelley’s cutting edge TV series "Ally McBeal," where her abilities as a distinguished actress were at least recognized.

Dame Edna has appeared regularly on the “Tonight Show With Jay Leno” and did the Millennium countdown in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. She starred at the concluding Commonwealth Games Ceremony in her home town and more recently, she triumphed at the Queen’s Jubilee Celebrations at Buckingham Palace where she appeared by Royal Invitation.

In 2005 Edna returned to her beloved Broadway where her show Back With A Vengeance won, amongst other awards, a distinguished Tony Nomination, followed by a successful tour of the United States.

She is at present celebrating her 50 years on the stage with “her best show ever” and is preparing for a new series on British television “The Edna Treatment.”

Her hobbies are caring, sharing and downsizing.

Edna is now on a coin, a stamp and has a street named after her.
In addition to that, Dame Edna’s “historic home” is on display on the upper level of the very same The Arts Centre where Barry Humphries is currently performing to sold-out audiences.

According to Dame Edna herself, Ednaville represents a:

…caring reconstruction (that) captures the very essence of the dwelling where I spent my early married life, where my kiddies grew up, where my bewildered mother came to live, and where my husband Norm had the first of his many urological incidents.

When my career took off, I kept most of my beautiful things in storage for years, but my negligent manager Barry Humphries “misplaced” my most treasured home furnishings and appliances. I would like to personally thank all those wonderful and honest little folk of Victoria who have helped restore my home to its former glory, with its sophisticated 1956 interiors and appointments, by returning my precious artifacts and knick-knacks. You have enriched the lives of innumerable Australians.

This is one Yank who feels especially enriched by having had a fabulously overwhelming opportunity to earn an even greater appreciation for this icon from Melbourne’s 36 Humoresque Street at Moonee Ponds, a “War Savings Street.” To have a taste of Dame Edna is to whet the appetite for all things Australian.

Here’s to many more wonderful, entertaining years for Barry Humphries -- may Dame Edna continue to captivate generations to come.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.

Related Stories:

Barry Humphries & Friends: Back With A Vengeance! (The SOB Review) - Arts Centre, State Theatre, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia (December 21, 2006)

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