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Hail to the Drag Queen

Dame Edna sashays into the Palace.

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Cleveland theater's been aching for a dose of Vitamin E. That diagnosis comes courtesy of Edna Everage, the lavender-coiffed socialite with the diamond-studded eyeglasses. "I'm the secret enzyme that brings laughter and happiness," says Edna, the alter ego of Australian comedian Barry Humphries.

According to the fictional Royal British Society of Theatrical Statistics, A Night With Dame Edna (which opens Tuesday at the Palace Theatre) produces one laugh every 30 seconds and a "falling-off-your-seat-howling-and-crying" moment every 3 minutes and 23 seconds. "I've also got my beautiful Ednaettes, scrumptious girl dancers, and stunning costumes that the menfolk would really appreciate, if they could ever take their eyes off me," Edna brags.

Audiences have been entranced for 35 years, ever since Humphries cooked up the character of a Melbourne housewife and put her on a London stage in 1969. The show polarized critics and led to a short-lived BBC-TV program, which became a precursor to Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Humphries has since produced five hit theatrical offerings in London, three autobiographies, and numerous television shows in Australia, the U.K., and the U.S., all starring the bejeweled dame.

Whether it's a crack on a local politician or commentary on a star in the news, Edna's monologues are studded with in-your-face candor. More performers would do well to adopt her style, she suggests. "I have shelf life. And gorgeous legs. They're insured for skillions."

Given her high mileage, they ought to be: Edna logs a grueling tour schedule, zigzagging the States to sing, dance, and dole out advice. "The rest of [my fans'] lives are really an anticlimax after seeing me," she says. "It's not for infants, but children love it, seniors adore it, gays revel in it, rednecks worship it, and nice people like you come back again and again."

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