February 17, 2008
Taste Schmaste! This Is for a Diva
By THE NEW YORK TIMES
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IT has been four years since Bette Midler last had her way with a stage in the United States. On Wednesday, when she opens at Caesarâ€™s Palace in Las Vegas with â€œThe Showgirl Must Go On,â€ the stage will reflect this pop divaâ€™s reputation for extravagance. Over a year in the making, the set has components that were constructed in Los Angeles, New Jersey and New York before being shipped to Las Vegas, including three 45-foot-tall trees and curtains created out of hundreds of thousands of individually painted gold coins.
Pink clouds compose one of the many electronic images to glide across a video monitor the size of a movie screen that serves as a backdrop for the stage. Ms. Midlerâ€™s headdress, made of 63 silk feathers, will be nearly 20 feet tall and weigh 3,200 pounds. No, she will not actually wear it. Yes, it will be pink.
The set was designed by Michael Levine, who dazzled audiences of another stripe last year with his sets for â€œMadama Butterflyâ€ at the Metropolitan Opera and for Wagnerâ€™s four-part â€œRingâ€ cycle at the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto.
Asked about the cost of designing such a commercial extravaganza, Mr. Levine avoided specifics. â€œLetâ€™s just say that it was the largest budget that Iâ€™ve worked with,â€ he said, â€œand, from what I understand, larger then most Broadway shows.â€ If there is a theme for the set design, Mr. Levine cited references to showgirls and the seasons, and â€œsomething about Bette Midler arriving in the desert and making magic.â€
To enhance her romp â€™nâ€™ roll, Ms. Midler will have plenty of visual props on hand, along with a 13-piece band, 20 female dancers, 4 backup singers, and 5 changes of costume. The show is scheduled to run for two years.