Duet for One: Barry Humphries and Dame Edna Chat With Playbill

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30 Mar 2010

Barry Humphries and Dame Edna Everage
Barry Humphries and Dame Edna Everage
Photo by Greg Gorman

Before the final curtain of Broadway's All About Me on April 4, Dame Edna talks with Playbill — and "manager" Barry Humphries — about life in art.


Dame Edna Everage is not your average Broadway star. She won her first Tony in 2000 for her Broadway debut in The Royal Tour and got a nomination for her second Broadway show, 2005's Back with a Vengeance. At her side, throughout her 50-plus years in showbiz, has been her cross-dressing "manager," Barry Humphries, who (literally) made Edna everything she is today. Playbill got a chance to talk to both Edna and Barry about the return of the "gigastar" to Broadway in All About Me, which co-stars Michael Feinstein.

Playbill: How do you feel about coming back to Broadway?

Dame Edna: It's like a homecoming to me. I feel that Broadway is my spiritual home. When I was a little girl in Australia, a spooky old psychic told me that one day I would live on a wide street. I never knew what that was until I thought: Broadway…Wide Street!

PB: There was initially some nasty mudslinging between you and co-star Michael Feinstein when your show was first announced and it turned out you both had a similar sounding title. You even said, 'Someone purchased a CD of Mr. Feinstein's at a flea market in Australia and re-gifted it to me recently. I'm impressed at how often he sings on key.' Those are some harsh words! How did you both decide to lay down the gauntlet and team up for All About Me?

DE: Well, I've known Michael for a long, long time and I've always hoped that he'd make it. I prayed for him to succeed. Little did I know that he had gotten together a show with the same title as mine. I think one of my people must have leaked it to him. Treachery is not unknown in this business. When I found out that he was clashing so radically with me, I was not a happy woman. I speak my mind and I had to let him know that. I don't like having arguments with people, though. I'm a very peaceful gigastar unless I'm crossed.

PB: But now you two are on good terms?

DE: He's a darling and he's a wonderful actor and he says that working with me is the chance of a lifetime for him.

PB: Tell me about All About Me.

DE: It really is [about] the best things that I do, the best things that he does, and the best things that we do together. I've always been on stage alone until now. I've never shared the stage with anyone. I couldn't wish to share it with anyone nicer than Michael. But I also share the theatre with my audience, and they get a say, they become the stars. I turn the audience into a star-studded cast.

PB: In 2000, you won a Tony Award for your Broadway debut.

DE: Yes, and I was nominated for a Tony last time, too [in 2005]. I'm a Tony-attracting star.

PB: Do you think you might have a go at it again this June?

DE: Well, they apologized last time for not giving it to me. They felt they had to give a Tony to Billy Crystal [for 700 Sundays]. There would have been a bit of a tantrum. They didn't want drama. If you've got the film of the Tony Awards, when Billy Crystal won, watch their lips when they give him the Tony, slow it down, freeze the frame. Their lips are saying, "But we'd rather give it to Edna," you watch. But of course, awards don't mean anything to me. The reaction of the public is my Tony.

PB: The last time that American audiences saw you was for your tour called My First Last Tour. Are you hinting at a retirement? Do you think that All About Me might be your swan song?

DE: The fact is that this will not be my last appearance because I still have a lot of energy. My drive and juices are very intact. I consult two people before I go on tour or do a new show: my gynecologist and my psychic advisor. Both of them said, "Go for it, Edna, go for it!"


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