Midler’s show proves she’s still best Bette
Wednesday, December 31, 2003
BY BARRY FOX
Of The Patriot-News
At one point during her show Monday night at Giant Center in Hershey, Bette Midler was waist-high through the roof of a tent, wearing a ridiculously large umbrella-like hat.
“I have to keep this … hat on my head and remember the joke too?” she said to a packed house. “No wonder nobody else does this.”
Wardrobe snafus aside, few performers could do what Midler does.
The 58-year-old is part stand-up, vocalist and cartoon character in the three-hour spectacle titled the “Kiss My Brass Tour,” Midler’s first in four years.
Riding in on a carousel horse suspended above the crowd and announcing, “I have returned. I’m fabulous. Don’t I look it?” set the tone for the evening.
Three dancers/singers, a dozen musicians, lights and video screens provided the lavish production audiences have come to expect from the Divine Miss M.
Pacing back and forth across the stage with mincing little steps Midler mixed jokes about the towns of Intercourse, Blue Ball and Lititz with catty swipes at Mary Tyler Moore, Winona Ryder, President Bush and Rush Limbaugh.
The 1960s hit “Chapel of Love” served as the soundtrack for photos of defunct famous couples — Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton, Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, Liza Minnelli and David Gest, Lisa Marie Presley and Michael Jackson — with Midler providing a running commentary on love lost.
A bit of self-mockery was also on the agenda with a “Judge Judy” video featuring the case of CBS-TV. Bette Midler in which Midler is sentenced to apologize to all TV owners for her disastrous sitcom.
She began to pay her debt to society with Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry” but couldn’t finish. “Maybe my show wasn’t must-see TV,” Midler said. “Maybe it wasn’t might-see TV. But there are worse things on TV. I’m too much of a lady to mention them but … Anna Nicole Smith!”
Her infamous alter-egos “Soph the Spinster” and the mermaid “Delores DeLago” are along on the tour, telling hilarious, naughty, pun-heavy jokes and/or riding a motorized wheelchair while performing fish-altered versions of “All That Jazz,” “Hello, Dolly!” and “Oklahoma!”
But in addition to the kitsch and glitter, Midler is a powerful and commanding performer.
Alone on the stage singing “Skylark” or her versions of the Rosemary Clooney hits “Come On-A My House” and “Tenderly” from her Grammy nominated album or the 9-11 song “September,” Midler showed her voice to be as supple and full of emotion as ever.
A duet with a video of Mr. Rogers singing “I Like To Be Told” revealed the divine one’s tender side.
Her hand gestures, facial expressions and the phrasing of “When A Man Loves A Woman,” “From A Distance,” “Wind Beneath My Wings” and “The Rose” were simply mesmerizing.
In an era of one-dimensional, quickly forgotten pop “stars,” Midler’s show is truly a night to remember from a singular talent and a bona fide star.