Pacific Stars And Stripes
September 18, 1993
NEW YORK â€” Bette Midler has brought song, sass and sex in the form of a traveling extravaganza, “Experience the Divine,” to Radio City Music Hall, re-establishing herself as a major entertainment talent after a 10-year absence from the stage to make movies.
Her 30-performance national tour engagement at New York’s premier star venue opened Tuesday to an ecstatic reception by an audience that contained many media and show biz celebrities.
Nearly three hours long and heavy on clowning, the show proved near-perfect for the Divine Miss M, who is researching her professional roots in burlesque and vaudeville.
With a backup of Harlettetype showgirls and first-rate stage musicians, Midler comes on strong, arriving on stage in a golden swing singing “You’ve Got to Have Friends,” and never lets down long enough to pose on a half shell, as she did on her last sortie to the Music Hall in 1983.
She is a perpetual motion machine, almost a blur of arms and legs, as she sashays, trips, skips, minces, boogies, and prances about the stage. Her voice, liquid and smoky, big and brassy, is in fine form, She assays some new material, making a lot of it sound improvised,
and is generous with her standard “inspirational ballads” such as “The Rose,” “Wind Beneath My Wings,” “Delta Dawn” and “From a Distance.”
She does a snappy version of Noel Coward’s “Miss Otis Regrets” but the story gets lost in the jazzed up beat and the amplification, which is crude throughout the show.
The tour de force of the show is a clever vignette that transforms Midler into a mermaid right out of “Splash” and her backup trio into mermaidettes.
When they aren’t dancing “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” they are hightailing it in the best “Chorus Line” style from electrified wheelchairs.
The mermaids also exercise by twirling white balls on cords.