New Castle News Weekend
August 28, 1993
BURGETTSTOWN – BetteÂ Midler’s tour, “ Experience theÂ Divine,’’ stopped at the CocaColaÂ Star Lake Amphitheater onÂ Monday with a show that is biggerÂ than ever.
In addition to her three excellentÂ backup singers, theÂ Harlettes, she also had four otherÂ girls, a full band and an excellentÂ jazz pianist, Bobby Lyle.
Favorite songs and charactersÂ were given fresh twists andÂ blended with new material.
Singing well but with a voiceÂ that seemed a bit tired fromÂ overwork, she, nevertheless,Â didn’t disappoint on the melancholyÂ “ Delta Dawn” and “ Hello in There” nor the haunting “ TheÂ Rose.” She had fans singingÂ along on “ Do you WannaÂ Dance,” “ From a Distance” andÂ “ Wind Beneath My Wings.”
One favorite character, MadameÂ Sophie, the brassy, trashy,Â 80-year-old ex-showgirl, pleasedÂ the crowd with old and newÂ bawdy stories about her boyfriend,Â Ernie. The character isÂ based on Sophie Tucker, a loud,Â blonde music hall entertainerÂ from the 1920s with a touch ofÂ Mae West’s style of delivery.
The other crowd favorite isÂ Midler’s Dolores Del Lago, whomÂ she has described as “ a Â womanÂ of tremendous ambition and absolutelyÂ no pride at all, a womanÂ of tremendous determination andÂ absolutely no skill, a woman ofÂ the grandest notions and not theÂ simplest hint of taste.”
She and her backup singersÂ (the Harlettes double as the DelLago Sisters) dress in blue-sequinedÂ halters (with starfish IÂ won’t say where) and mermaidÂ tails. They do all their musicalÂ numbers from wheelchairs. ItÂ was in this way they did “ BoogieÂ Woogie Bugle Boy,” “ AnchorsÂ Aweigh,” “ Greatest Love Of All”Â and, the funniest, “ New York,Â New York” with a high kicking Rockette finish done in the tailÂ fins from the wheelchairs linedÂ up across the stage.
The meaning of the single largeÂ rose in the middle of the stageÂ curtain became clear at the endÂ of Act I. Surely, I thought, she’sÂ not harkening back to her 1979Â triumph as the self-destructiveÂ rock singer in “ The Rose.” SheÂ wasn’t.
She’s working on another characterÂ named Rose, a role createdÂ by Ethel Merman in the originalÂ Broadway production of “ Gypsy.”
Rose is the mother of two littleÂ girls who become stars on theÂ vaudeville circuit. The one, JuneÂ Haver, went on later to a film actingÂ career while the other becameÂ the most successful stripperÂ in America, Gypsy Rose Lee.
Midler and company did several skits based on stripping, andÂ she sang songs from the show,Â “ Every Thing’s Coming UpÂ Roses” and “ Rose’s Turn.” EvenÂ though the skits were funny andÂ her rendition of the songs excellent,Â this part of the show seemedÂ like a commercial for the movie.
But the audience didn’t mind.
In fact, one man was so overwhelmedÂ after the show was overÂ and the audience was Â inching towardÂ the exits, he shouted, “NowÂ that was a show, that was aÂ show.”