Dame Edna Everage bids 57-year stage career adieu

ROD McGUIRK Associated Press Published:

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) -- Dame Edna Everage, the Tony Award-winning drag act known for her purple hair and oversized rhinestone eyeglasses, will soon open her final stage show tour in Australia. It comes 57 years after her debut.

Barry Humphries, the actor and satirist who created Australia's self-proclaimed housewife-superstar, wants to take the farewell show "Eat Pray Laugh!" to Britain and New York over the next two years following the two-month Australian tour that begins in Canberra on June 22, his publicist Kerry O'Brien said Tuesday.

At 78, Humphries said the time had come to retire all his various alter egos from the stage, the most famous of whom is Dame Edna.

"She's a little weary of touring and strange hotels," Humphries told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio in Canberra, explaining his most enduring character's decision to retire.

Another of Humphries' characters, drunken Australian cultural attache Sir Les Patterson, will join Dame Edna on the farewell tour.

Dame Edna's career began as the more dour Mrs. Edna Everage when she first stepped onto the stage of a Melbourne University review in 1955 in Humphries' hometown of Melbourne.

She was "Auntie Edna" in the 1974 Australian comedy movie "Barry McKenzie Holds His Own," in which she was made a dame -- a British title that is the female equivalent of a knighthood -- as part of the plot during a cameo appearance by the then-Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam.

Dame Edna was a staple of television and stage in Britain and Australia before Humphries won a Tony Award in 2000 for his Broadway show "Dame Edna, The Royal Tour." Its sequel, "Dame Edna, Back with a Vengeance," was also nominated for a Tony, the leading U.S. theater award, in 2004.

Humphries was not available for an interview on Tuesday.

The show's producer, Dainty Group, described the show in a tongue-in-cheek statement as an all-singing, all-dancing spectacular in which Dame Edna promises to empower audiences as she meditates on the big issues of gender, ethnicity and climate change.