BetteBack: A Vat Of Vulgarity

Midler presents ‘vat of vulgarity” to fans applauding for more
Intelligencer Writer

Bette Midler, the energetic vamp who has made a fortune by acting like a campy tramp, welcomes her fans to ‘ another vile evening with the Divine Miss M. ” The applause swells as she warns they’re about to fall “into a vat of vulgarity ”

Ms Midler keeps her word, giving her followers an incredibly energetic show equally divided between burlesque, vaudeville, musical o f f e r i n gs and t h e a t r i c al concepts. This astounding body of w o rk was captured by director
Mi c h a el R i t c h ie d u r i ng t h r ee California concerts in ‘ Divine Madness

The R rated concert film simply lets Ms Midler play to her loving fans who pack the large hall and applaud every word, song and gesture. Ms Midler’s live concerts have always been hot ticket items because of the incredible amount of work she packs into each one unlike so many performers who simply stand back and sing – putting an invisible wall between themselves and their public – this entertainer reaches out and touches (a better term might be grabs) her fans with words and music.

During some long stretches she does nothing more than share jokes and stories with the viewers, who seem to enjoy the personal contact as much as the professional musical offerings.

More than anything else “Divine Madness” beautifully displays Ms Midler’s astounding diversity. One moment she’s singing the soft, melancholy title song from her f i lm “The Rose” (her dynamic performance earned her an Academy Award nomination as Best Actress) and immediately jumps into a searing rocker like “Fire Down Below,” delivering it with an intensity capable of peeling paint off the walls.

Then she may crack a few gross j o k es s u ch as her a t t a c ks on royalty (“She loves nature in spite of what it did to her,” Ms Midler says of England‘s Princess Anne), or tell her grossly hilarious Sophie Tucker gags.

Following that she jumps into an impressionistic version, complete with New Wave costumes, of the 60s song “Leader of the Pack” and concludes the show with a complex pantomime routine involving a d o wn and out waterfront woman hobo trying to carve a little joy into her depressing existence.

This truly marvelous display of talent comes from a performer who can go from the raunchiest joke to the most haunting ballad without missing a beat.

At the end of “Divine Madness,” Ms Midler thanks her adoring fans by p e r f o rmi ng a headstand. No doubt Midler addicts will be doing cartwheels out of the theater after seeing this.

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