ACM Hosts Tribute To Bette Midler With Jennica McCleary Sept 18

Cumberland Times
August 27, 2010
ACM hosting tribute to Bette Midler
Vegas-style Divine Deception comes to college theater Sept. 18

– CUMBERLAND – The Allegany College of Maryland Center for Continuing Education and the Allegany Arts Council will present the Vegas-style show Divine Deception, a tribute to Bette Midler by Jennica McCleary, on Sept. 18 in the college’s theater.

McCleary, a former runner-up to Miss Ohio, has been making her living as a Bette Midler tribute artist in Las Vegas performing in the”ˆLegends show – sometimes alongside Steve Fairchild’s Garth”ˆBrooks – for years. In 2010, McCleary decided to launch her own show.

“The show is a time capsule of Bette’s career. I begin with the 1980 look from the Divine Madness tour, just after the premier of ”˜The Rose’ and I take the audience on a journey of music and jokes that ends with her appearance as the final guest on Johnny Carson,” said McCleary by phone on the road with her show in Biloxi. “I do all the signature Bette songs, lots of jokes, use different wigs and a boat load of costumes to recreate some of those iconic moments.”

But audience members should be cautioned that the production does contain some mature content and references Midler’s earlier more surly days in entertainment,

“Audiences should not come expecting to see movie star Miss M. She is so much more than that. Of course they will hear the songs from Beaches and For the Boys but in her early years she was all about shock and awe,” said McCleary.

And of all people, why Bette Midler? “Well, I certainly don’t look like Shania Twain,” said McCleary, who with her red hair and ivory skin could be the heir apparent to C.C. Bloom herself. “People started telling me I looked like Bette right around my senior year in high school. At first, I wanted nothing to do with it. Creating a character from scratch is one thing, but molding yourself to be someone who already existed was very intimidating. If I were a shy coy child this would never work. I find it very interesting that I not only look like her but have the performance background and personality to pull this off. It cannot be coincidence.

“Why the good Lord decided to bless me with comedic timing and very distinct look, I’ll never know! And how you mix Irish, German, Welsh and Native American to get a Jewish girl from Hawaii is beyond me.”

Divine Deception caught the attention of Midler herself earlier this year. When McCleary met the entertainer after one of Midler’s Vegas shows, she told her about her act. Midler’s response was :”and you actually make some money off of this? Good for you, kid.”

McCleary said since Midler is such an icon to different people, there are challenges to portraying her for two hours on stage, especially in varying stages of her looks and career.

“I’m always trying to get my hands on newspaper clippings, old videos, interviews, photos, books, anything,” she said. “I worked for years on the walk, the voice, how to hold my face so that I look the most like her, buying the right wigs, what makeup to use. I learn something new every time I’m on stage and I need to know how to react as Bette under any circumstances. It’s a challenge, but it’s also a lot of fun!”

In addition to McCleary, audiences will be treated to local talent as well. Kimberli Rowley and Olivia Hartman will be appearing as Midler’s famous “Harlettes,” her back-up singers whose costuming and comedy often will take center stage.

This multi-costumed colorful show spans 35 years of Midler’s career from Beaches to Broadway, Wind Beneath my Wings and the old Soph jokes. The production is a partial fundraiser for the Lightbearer Scholarship in memory of Teri Riggs Stephens at Allegany College of Maryland. Advanced tickets are available now by calling 301-784-5338.

Tickets are also available at the offices of the Allegany Arts Council in downtown Cumberland.

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