COURTESY PHOTODame Edna is the effervescent character created by Australian actor Barry Humphries.

Dame Edna bids her possums farewell

Showbiz is loaded with superstars and megastars, but when a gigastar announces her retirement you have to take note. Such is the case with “Dame Edna’s Glorious Goodbye: The Farewell Tour” opening tonight at the SHN Orpheum Theatre for only seven performances.

In case you missed the previous books, films, television shows and other global domination productions, possums, Dame Edna Everage is the sparklingly bespectacled, candy-floss coiffed, gladiola-wielding creation of Australian actor and raconteur Barry Humphries.

A former Melbourne housewife who pulled herself up by her strappy heels to self-determined international celebrity status, Edna has been part of the Humphries oeuvre for 60 years.

“She appeared at my bidding as a satire on provincial Melbourne suburbia,” he recalls. “She was somewhat timid and a bit shrill, with a sort of shameless bigotry and rather dowdy attire.”</p>

Humphries allows that Edna is a canny observer, but insists, “She’s actually a rather stupid woman. She is very articulate,” he allows, “and, like most people who know nothing, she has a view on everything.”

With a nod to Humphries’ friend and mentor Joan Rivers, Edna is given to comic jabs at herself, her family and her audiences, whom she calls “possums.” Anything observable is fair game with a never-ending supply of willing victims in the house.

“Whatever Dame Edna might say about some hapless patron of her choosing seems instantly forgiven by the audience,” says Humphries. “In a sense she provides a release for the audience because she says things they wish they could say.”

Over the years, Edna has become what Humphries calls “a satire on celebrity itself. She’s one of those people who have a fantasy view of themselves and wish to be accepted as who they think they are. She’s not unique in the entertainment industry for that, but she draws attention to it. She calls herself a megastar and the world accepts her estimation of herself.”

It doesn’t in the least trouble Humphries, now 81, that the prime visual of his professional legacy is likely to be not his own sartorially dapper visage, but rather a collection of rhinestone-rimmed lashes and lavender locks over a crimson slash of perpetually pursed lips accented with a Marilyn mole.

“She’s like a mechanical toy set in motion in 1955,” says Humphries of the Dame’s very vivid personality. “I stand in the wings while Edna is on and she delivers some riposte to a member of the audience and I think to myself: ‘God! I wish I’d said that!’”

IF YOU GO

Dame Edna’s Glorious Goodbye: The Farewell Tour

Presented by SHN

Where: SHN Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St., S.F.

When: 7:30 p.m. March 17-19, 8 p.m. March 20, 2 and 8 p.m. March 21, 2 p.m. March 22

Tickets: $40 to $210

Contact: (888) 746-1799, www.shnsf.com

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