September 17, 1993
The entertainer made her entrance at Radio City Music Hall, where she is to perform 30 shows through Oct. 23, floating over the stage inside a cardboard cloud. Its fleeces quickly parted to reveal a sun whose golden rays were dimmed by the glare of the star’s ferociously
“You were expecting a beefier person,” teased the entertainer, 47, who was in svelte fighting shape.
She plunged immediately into an amusing theatrical rap song, in which she declared she had been “Walt Disneyized” and “Jurassicized,” then delivered a scathingly funny monologue that concentrated on tabloid horror stories set in Long Island. Special attention was devoted to pondering the mysterious charms of Joey Buttafuoco.
Those who feared that Ms. Midler might have been been “Disneyized” into giving a G-rated performance can breathe easily. Her show, “Experience the Divine,” has the usual Midler quota of raunchy humor. At the same time, it is no more extreme than what Ms. Midler
has been doing for the last two decades. It offers the same highpowered mixture of stand-up comedy, burlesque show humor, campy production numbers and cabaret singing as earlier Midler extravaganzas like “Divine Madness” and “Clams on the Half Shell.”
Weaving these disparate elements together with a brash good humor and plenty of heart is a performer who defines the contemporary red-hot mama: “Experience the Divine” has a familiarity that is almost reassuring.
Not only is her trio the Harlettes (now jokingly introduced as “the politically correct Harlettes”) back, but so are Ms. Midler’s stage alter egos. The most amusing is the lounge singer Delores Delago who slithers around in mermaid fins and sings hilariously inappro’priate renditions of pop tunes you never wanted to hear again.
At the high point of Delores’ act, she and a chorus of seven mermaids in motorized wheelchairs do a ridiculous choreographed twirlingÂ routine with white billiard balls attached to ropes. The ensemble’s pumped-u p disco version of “Greatest Love of All,” which builds to an exclamatory “Me, me, me!,” thoroughly trashes the song, which has replaced “I Will Survive” as the object of Dolores’ triumphant demolition.