BetteBack December 8, 1999: ‘Miss Millennium’ Is Indeed Divine

The Seattle Times
‘Miss Millennium’ Is Indeed Divine
By Misha Berson
Wednesday, December 8, 1999
Seattle Times Theater Critic


Bette Midler. At KeyArena, Seattle, last night. ——————————-

“I hear you’re in the market for a new police chief,” declared Bette Midler at KeyArena last night. “Well, look no further: I’m your gal.”

Sorry, Bette – you’re a lot better at gleefully disturbing the peace than you would be enforcing it.

And if you were to step into Chief Norm Stamper‘s shoes, you probably wouldn’t have time to croon, kvetch, shimmy, belt, flip your tail fin and do all those other outrageous, marvelous things you did in last night’s dynamite sold-out concert.

Bette even made that big cement arena she dubbed “a hockey rink” feel intimate. Well, not quite as intimate as the Paramount Theatre, where she played in 1996 (and should please return to next time around).

But as if we needed further proof, the Divine Miss M. made sure at KeyArena that Seattle knows she’s one of the best (and bawdiest) all-around entertainers in the galaxy.

Last night’s show on the “Divine Miss Millennium Tour” began with Midler popping out of a giant half- globe on a stars-and-planets-themed set, singing “From a Distance.”

Soon after, she was mincing around “in a tiz,” tossing off up-to-the-minute quips about Seattle’s WTO-related civil unrest (“And here I am without my gas mask!”) and Y2K anxiety (“I don’t care if the computers knock off 100 years. This show plays just as well in 1900.”).

Midler looked AbFab in a scarlet silk-and-lace pants number (traded later for an elegant bronze jacket and long skirt). And she was in terrific voice, once the sound genies balanced her pipes with her blazing band.

On hand too was her fetching Harlettes backup trio and a female dance chorus – including an ultra-zaftig gal who could really move it.

But whenever Midler was onstage (which was about 90 percent of the time), all eyes stayed riveted on her petite, dynamic form.

In several extended new routines, Midler reveled in the sassy, trash-camp style she honed years ago on the gay-baths circuit.

The best was a glitzy mock-rally for her aquatic alter-ego, the comely mermaid Delores Delago – who is, dontcha know, running for president. That led to a wacky, celeb-studded version of “We Are the World” (her campaign song) and a hilarious ode to “Ken Starfish,” the man who “put the `cute’ in prosecutor.”

Midler also did a woozy turn in a dive-of-the-mind, The Pits, and a big, risque number celebrating bosoms and brassieres with every mammary euphemism known to humanity.

Some of this double entendre-laced material, shall we say, sagged a bit. But Midler radiated so much charisma and had such fun glorying in and mocking her taste for tac (“We may be high-tech, but we’re still low-down”) it didn’t matter.

She also could magically shift moods in a blink, from arch raunchiness (lots of jests at Bob Dole and Viagra) to glowing sincerity.

In the latter vein, Midler sang Leonard Cohen’s “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today” with keen feeling, and shaped a tender version of the sentimental “Sunrise, Sunset” from “Fiddler on the Roof.” (Midler was in the original Broadway cast.)

Welcomed too were the poignant “Lullaby in Blue,” socko trademark renditions of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and “Stay With Me” and a compelling “female-bonding” tune about, amazingly, the Virgin Mary.

The fiftysomething Midler also commented and joked, on occasion, about the challenges of being middle-aged in a youth-oriented culture.

But this diva is just talented, vigorous and blond as ever, maybe more so. And with Tina Turner talking retirement, we’ll be needing La Bette’s user-friendly pizazz even more. Long may it sizzle.

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