Michael Walters' most high-profile job is also his most unusual — impersonating an impersonator.
Thank goodness the character he plays — Dame Edna Everage — is flamboyant, over the top and larger than life. There's plenty of room for interpretation.
"The things Dame Edna says can be very pointed, very catty, very broad," Walters said in a phone interview. "But at the same time, nobody is meant to take anything she says seriously."
Walters will bring his stage show — one half Dame Edna impersonation and one half himself doing musical comedy — to the Grand Chapel tonight and Saturday.
Dame Edna is actually the outlandish creation of Australian comedian Barry Humphries, who just closed a short run on Broadway with cabaret singer Michael Feinstein in a two-person revue titled "All About Me."
Walters said he met Humphries several years ago and, after explaining his love of the Dame Edna character with her infamous lilac-colored hair and cat-eye glasses, won Humphries' endorsement to impersonate her, or him.
"Until recently, I was the only performer in the United States to have had his blessing to portray the role," Walters said. "He's been very, very kind to me. I think he is honestly very flattered that people are interested not only in keeping the character alive but spreading it far and wide."
His show in Wichita, he said, will be a tryout for one that he will open this summer in Provincetown, Mass., near Cape Cod. He lives now in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Most people in Wichita are familiar with Dame Edna from movies and TV, he said, but have probably never seen her tour.
"A lot of people might not know that what Barry was trying to do when he created the character was create the portrait of a very bigoted Australian housewife, who really can't be a bigot because she doesn't know that she is.
"She's very grandiose," he said. "She actually has never been 'damed' by the queen, but she thinks she has."
Some of the material that Walters uses is from Humphries' shows, and some is original, he said. At intermission, he removes all of his makeup and changes into a tux for the second half of the show, consisting primarily of musical comedy. Walters has been performing on stages for 25 years.
He says he hopes Wichita audiences will appreciate the oddity that is Dame Edna, even when her humor hits close to home.
"She has a wonderful saying about how it's too bad that people can't laugh at themselves because they could be missing the joke of the century."
If you go
'A Royal Audience with Dame Edna'
What: Tribute show to Dame Edna, followed by a one-man musical revue, starring Michael Walters
Where: The Grand Chapel, 828 N. Broadway
When: 8 p.m. today-Sat.
How much: Tickets $20 by calling 316-269-3333. Cash bar and food menu available during the performances.