Director: Paul Foster
Reviewer: R. G. Balgray
Superdiva Bette Midler took one of the more unusual, exotic even, pathways to fame. In Bette Midler and Me, Sue Kelvin tracks this journey and pays her own personal homage to the Divine Miss M, as well as serving up a pacy, raucous reminder of the songs and wisecracks along the way.
Her personal affinity with the star – weight issues, family problems, cultural griefs– adds plangency to the biographical elements she covers; but what really adds pzazz to this strong production is the sheer depth and range of its musicality: with only piano accompaniment from Tony Award-winner Sarah Travis), and one backing singer Alex Young (backing? She could do much, much more than that) to replace the famous Staggering Harlettes, tight harmonies drive her programme through the famous hits and then some. Famous ballads like “The Rose” and “Wind beneath my Wings” got the full treatment – and highlighted Kelvin’s diction; but she wasn’t afraid to get down and dirty with the raunchfest that is “Fat Stuff” from the infamous bathhouse days.
Midler’s status as the ultimate gay icon was explored, and explained; while warts and all questions like her links with with Barry Manilow were – fully – answered. And there was even time to deal with her comedy too – wickedly cruel one-liners and routines to get the audience going, yet also time to deal with the broad sweep of her film career (even covering – with just the right amount of attitude – the infamous Beaches).
Hard to quarrel, then, with the depth and range of this performance. No qualms from the audience: they simply loved it.
Runs until 31 August 2015