BetteBack August 28, 1993: “Now that was a show, that was a show.”

New Castle News Weekend
August 28, 1993


BURGETTSTOWN – Bette Midler’s tour, “ Experience the Divine,’’ stopped at the CocaCola Star Lake Amphitheater on Monday with a show that is bigger than ever.
In addition to her three excellent backup singers, the Harlettes, she also had four other girls, a full band and an excellent jazz pianist, Bobby Lyle.
Favorite songs and characters were given fresh twists and blended with new material.
Singing well but with a voice that seemed a bit tired from overwork, she, nevertheless, didn’t disappoint on the melancholy “ Delta Dawn” and “ Hello in There” nor the haunting “ The Rose.” She had fans singing along on “ Do you Wanna Dance,” “ From a Distance” and “ Wind Beneath My Wings.”
One favorite character, Madame Sophie, the brassy, trashy, 80-year-old ex-showgirl, pleased the crowd with old and new bawdy stories about her boyfriend, Ernie. The character is based on Sophie Tucker, a loud, blonde music hall entertainer from the 1920s with a touch of Mae West’s style of delivery.
The other crowd favorite is Midler’s Dolores Del Lago, whom she has described as “ a  woman of tremendous ambition and absolutely no pride at all, a woman of tremendous determination and absolutely no skill, a woman of the grandest notions and not the simplest hint of taste.”
She and her backup singers (the Harlettes double as the DelLago Sisters) dress in blue-sequined halters (with starfish I won’t say where) and mermaid tails. They do all their musical numbers from wheelchairs. It was in this way they did “ Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” “ Anchors Aweigh,” “ Greatest Love Of All” and, the funniest, “ New York, New York” with a high kicking Rockette finish done in the tail fins from the wheelchairs lined up across the stage.
The meaning of the single large rose in the middle of the stage curtain became clear at the end of Act I. Surely, I thought, she’s not harkening back to her 1979 triumph as the self-destructive rock singer in “ The Rose.” She wasn’t.
She’s working on another character named Rose, a role created by Ethel Merman in the original Broadway production of “ Gypsy.”
Rose is the mother of two little girls who become stars on the vaudeville circuit. The one, June Haver, went on later to a film acting career while the other became the most successful stripper in America, Gypsy Rose Lee.
Midler and company did several skits based on stripping, and she sang songs from the show, “ Every Thing’s Coming Up Roses” and “ Rose’s Turn.” Even though the skits were funny and her rendition of the songs excellent, this part of the show seemed like a commercial for the movie.
But the audience didn’t mind.
In fact, one man was so overwhelmed after the show was over and the audience was  inching toward the exits, he shouted, “Now that was a show, that was a show.”

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