March 7, 2008
”˜Miss M’ still ”˜Divine’
Posted: 10:34 AM ET
Many people know her as the “Divine Miss M,” but Bette Midler refers to herself several times during her new Las Vegas revue as “the people’s diva.” After seeing the show at Caesars Palace, I’d say either title fits.
Bette Midler dazzles as “Soph” in her new Las Vegas show.
From her first appearance on stage, atop a pile of Louis Vuitton luggage, Midler embraces the audience with her warmth and a personality as sparkling as her shimmering outfit (note to Hillary Clinton – if there’s any fabric left over it would make for a dynamite pants suit).
At age 62 Midler works the stage with surprising vigor. That’s no small feat – the stage is 120 feet long. She manages to make a virtue of the absurd dimensions by pausing theatrically at intervals to catch her breath and even lying flat on her back, declaring she’s “exhausted by all the schlepping.”
The 90-minute show zips by, with Midler performing some new material and her best-known songs, including “From a Distance” and “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Her voice is most effective in the lower ranges, and tends to veer off key when she starts belting the high notes (at least to my ears). But she seems to derive so much joy from performing that you forgive her anything.
She’s joined by her backup singer-dancers, the Harlettes. They’re not terribly memorable, nor are the slew of high-kicking chorines (pretty much rhymes with boring) who also try to take up some of the vast real estate on stage.
The show could do with a redesigned set narrowing the proportions of the stage; it was originally built for Celine Dion, who spent five years there in an act that included some Cirque du Soleil-like acrobatics. But Midler is still able to connect with the audience (the arena seats over 4,000) with the help of amusing banter (much of it supplied by veteran comedy writer Bruce Vilanch) and a hilariously vulgar routine in which Midler channels a 93-year-old showgirl named Soph (as in famed entertainer Sophie Tucker).
I often lament that Midler didn’t manage her film career more successfully – remember when she was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood? – but setting up shop in Vegas seems like the right move for her now. (She’ll certainly make a mint: the top ticket price is $250.) The title of her spectacular is “The Showgirl Must Go On.” The night I was there, the audience wouldn’t have it any other way.