A divine evening: Midler production dazzles capacity Coliseum crowd
By Sam McDonald
Hampton Roads Daily Press
March 7 2004
HAMPTON — With a strong voice and a tongue as sharp as ever, Bette Midler gave her Hampton Coliseum audience a taste of New York City flash Saturday night.
The capacity crowd saw the Divine Miss M ride on stage atop a carousel horse suspended from the rafters, singing all the way. Her tour’s theme song “Kiss My Brass” included the line “My songs aren’t too classy, but check out my chassis.”
The entrance set the tone for the evening that featured finely crafted music and Midler’s trademark raunchy humor.
“I’ve returned … how the hell are you Hampton Roads?” she asked. “Ah Virginia. Where life is just a little bit slower … thanks to VDOT.”
She also said she had stopped in at Williamsburg. “Everything’s just as it was two centuries ago,” she said. “In fact, a couple of my movies were playing there.”
Her be-tween-song banter also featured references to Kingsmill, Norfolk’s Ghent neighborhood and other locales. “Craddock, show me your mullets!” she demanded. Later, she took pot shots at Rush Limbaugh and younger pop singers such as Britney Spears and eventually made fun of her own short-lived TV show that aired on CBS.
The diva seemed in good spirits, even if her voice was a bit husky. “I’m fabulous. Don’t I look it? Even I don’t know how I do it.” Midler, 58, was decked out in a sparkling sailor suit. “I visited the Naval base,” she said. “As you can tell, I have a thing for sailors.”
Backed by a 13-piece band including a five-member brass section, Midler sang her signature tunes including “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and “Chapel of Love” while also tackling standards such as “Skylark” and tunes from her new disc “Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook.”
She explained that the collection of Clooney songs was suggested by her old friend and collaborator Barry Manilow. “Isn’t she gorgeous?” Midler said after wrapping up Clooney’s ballad “Tenderly.” She peered at a giant screen displaying a black-and-white photo of Clooney.
Coliseum director Joe Tsao said the Midler show was one of the largest productions ever brought to the arena. Twenty-one trucks and buses were required to deliver the set, cast and crew. He said the lighting and set rigging weighed 130,000 pounds – more than any show in memory.
The sets were dazzling. Midler’s stage was framed by arches and a pair of sparkling towers built to resemble Coney Island at the turn of the 20th century.
At one point in the show, the star wheeled around the stage on a bicycle built to look like a giant swan.