Bette Midler to Play Superagent Sue Mengers on Broadway
The recipe for a successful one-character play would, at minimum, seem to call for two things: a powerful woman to base it upon and a powerful woman to play her. And a newly announced theater project surely has both: Bette Midler will perform on Broadway for the first time in more than 30 years in a play about the Hollywood superagent Sue Mengers, its producers said on Monday. The play, called â€œIâ€™ll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers,â€ is written by John Logan and will be directed by Joe Mantello, and is scheduled to open on April 24 at a Shubert theater still to be determined.
Ms. Mengers,Â who died in 2011, was a rare female player in a male-dominated industry, alternately charming and ruthless (on behalf of her clients). Having climbed the entertainment industry ladder from a receptionistâ€™s position at a boutique talent firm to an agentâ€™s office at top companies like I.C.M. and William Morris, she went on to cultivate a roster that included performers like Barbra Streisand, Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway and Michael Caine. After Ms. Mengers retired from the business, she continued to hostÂ informal salons for Hollywoodâ€™s eliteÂ at her Beverly Hills home.
Mr. Logan, the Tony Award-winning author of the play â€œRedâ€ and a screenwriter whose credits include the James Bond movie â€œSkyfall,â€ said in a telephone interview that the idea for â€œIâ€™ll Eat You Lastâ€ had been gestating since he met Ms. Mengers at a dinner in 2007.
â€œI thought she was an amazingly interesting woman,â€ Mr. Logan said. â€œAnd complicated â€” complicated in a way that is catnip to a dramatist.â€
In 2011, Mr. Logan mentioned the project to Graydon Carter, the editor of Vanity Fair magazine, who was a friend of Ms. Mengersâ€™s and helped him arrange interviews with many people who knew her â€” â€œfriends, enemies, co-workers, clientsâ€ â€” in her life.
Mr. Logan said that Mr. Carter also helped him shape the central idea of the play, which takes place on a single evening. Asked what that evening was, Mr. Logan said he could not say. (â€œI mean, I want to say,â€ he added. â€œBut Iâ€™ve been working on James Bond for so long, Iâ€™m so secretive about everything.â€)
Ms. Midler â€œwas always in my mindâ€ as he wrote the play, Mr. Logan said. â€œSheâ€™s a proper stage animal. In a one-person show in particular, you need someone who can hold an audience, who connects with an audience in a really deeply visceral way, and thatâ€™s Bette through and through.â€
Ms. Midler, the Grammy- and Emmy-Award winning star of â€œThe Rose,â€ â€œBeachesâ€ and â€œThe First Wives Club,â€ began her Broadway career as an understudy and replacement cast member in the original production of â€œFiddler on the Roof.â€ She has since appeared in limited-run productions and concert tours like â€œBette! Divine Madness,â€ which ended its Broadway run in 1980, and won a special Tony Award in 1974. Ms. Midler was also a producer of the recent Broadway musical â€œPriscilla Queen of the Desert.â€