Bette Midler and Me
Bette Midler and Me – Upstairs at the Gatehouse
I saw Bette Midler and Me on Wednesday 23rd September. This is a show which essentially intertwines Bette Midler’s life with that of the star of the show, Sue Kelvin. We hear about Bette’s ups and downs, from the death of her sister to her stardom. At the same time we hear about Sue’s struggles as a child and her fascination with Bette.
Sue clearly loves Bette Midler – that much is clear and she knows how to deliver Bette’s numbers. Having seen Jewish Legends recently, which also focused on Bette and is also written by Chris Burgess, it did however mean that some of the stories were revisited and even told in a very similar fashion….for example the numerous repetitions of Matchmaker Matchmaker to show just how many performances Bette gave. That being said the interjections from Sue’s own difficult upbringing made it feel a lot more relevant and emotional than it otherwise would have been and more accessible than Jewish Legends. For this reason I would have liked to have heard more about Sue. I felt her own personal story got slightly forgotten at the end. Sue has clearly played some fabulous roles and this would have been nice to have been acknowledged.
Sue was accompanied on the piano by Sarah Travis. Featuring on backing vocals and delivering stunning numbers in her own right was Alex Young. Alex’s presence on stage can sometime appear odd as you are never really clear what she is there for. Due to the highly personal and emphasised relationship between Sue and Bette, Alex occasionally came across like a spare part. That being said that is no criticism on Alex herself but more on the writing. In fact Alex’s performance of From A Distance was actually one of the vocal highlights of the night.
All of the singing was well delivered and the vocal arrangements suited all 3 performers. We were treated to hits such as ‘The Rose,’ ‘I’m a Woman,’ and ‘Pretty Legs (and Great Big Knockers). Sue was at her best with the comedy numbers.
One of the much advertised and discussed points about Bette Midler and Me was the Beaches puppet show in Avenue Q style. Now when Sue & Alex asked who hadn’t seen Beaches, in a room full of Bette Midler fans I felt as if I was owning up to frequenting the bath houses she started up in, even Mr Musicaltheatremusings was shocked. Due to my clearly lacking film knowledge I am probably not the best placed to comment but it was humorous although deviated the end of the show away from some of the weightier issues that had been dealt with rather well just moments earlier in the show.
I would recommend this wholeheartedly to Bette Midler fans – if you missed her recent Divine Intervention Tour – this is the next best thing.
Better Midler and Me is on at Upstairs at the Gatehouse until 27th September and then transfers to St James Theatre for the 2nd and 3rd October.