Bette Midler Vamps It Up in Vegas
Posted on January 17, 2011 by admin
By ROBERT RORKE
ONCE upon a time, Bette Midler’s audience went clubbing until dawn and caught her show at the famed and bygone Continental Baths.
These days, they’re more likely to go to a huge theater like the Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace, where the Divine Miss M concluded a two-year residency ”“ or enjoy her in their homes, where, on New Year’s Eve, they can catch
“The Showgirl Must go On” on HBO.
Midler, 65, duly notes the passing of time at the beginning of her revue. “Thirty years ago, my audience was on drugs; now, they’re on medication,” she says.
the singer and actress knows how to put the “show” in showgirl, serving up a melange of Grammywinning songs (“Wind Beneath my Wings”) and campy production numbers such as “Pretty Legs, Great Big Knockers,” whose music is punctuated with the bawdy stories told by a character that Midler calls Soph.
“Salty songs and bawdy jokes put my daughter through private school,” Midler quips.
the stage at the Colosseum is huge, as long as a runway, and the largest Midler has ever worked on, but she fi lls it nicely with a 13-piece band, the Caesar Salad Girls and the staggering Harlettes, her longtime backup singers (among whose alumni is actress Katey Sagal of FX’s “Sons of Anarchy.”) Midler credits the look of the show to production designer Michael Levine and the dance moves to her longtime choreographer Toni Basil. “She should be a judge on ”˜Dancing With the Stars,’” Midler says. “She’sa genius.”
After Midler signed to do the Vegas engagement, she said it was in the works, on paper, for a year and that she “made a lot of expensive mistakes but didn’t stick with them.”
What’s on view is essentially a greatest hits show that never changed during the two-year run. “What you do when you open is pretty much what you end up doing,” Midler says. “The problems is that everything is on a cue. the lights and videos are automated. you can’t say, I’ll do this now and then change your mind.”
While doing the Vegas show, Midler realized that the Nevada city has become a destination for tourists worldwide. “The crowds were fantastic. I met people from Australia, Liverpool, Holland.”
Now that she’s back home in New York, Midler has turned her attention to several projects. one is the Broadway adaptation of the fi lm “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” on which she is an associate producer. it opens at the end of March at the Palace Theater. On April 12, she will join James Taylor and other musicians to celebrate Carnegie Hall’s 120th anniversary.
she is also istening to new songs, looking for the next “From A Distance.” And, as always, there is her ongoing work with the New York Restoration Project, the environmental group that cleaned up Fort Tryon Park, saved community gardens from commercial development, and transformed an illegal dumping ground along the Harlem River into the fi ve-acre Swindler Cove Park and adjacent Peter Jay Sharp Boathouse. On the agenda are plans to build a footpath that extends from Highbridge Park in upper Manhattaninto the Bronx.
“It just had to be done,” she says of her work to repair the city’s ragged edges. “I’m very proud of the very physical work. you can build, but if you don’t maintain what you’ve done, you’re dead in the water. And we maintain.” BETTE MIDLER: THE SHOWGIRL MUST GO ON 9 p.m, HBO
Originally published by ROBERT RORKE.
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