March 7th, 2008
10:34 AM ET

'Miss M' still 'Divine'

Many people know her as the "Divine Miss M," but Bette Midler refers to herself several times during her new Las Vegas revue as "the people's diva." After seeing the show at Caesars Palace, I'd say either title fits.

Bette Midler dazzles as "Soph" in her new Las Vegas show.

From her first appearance on stage, atop a pile of Louis Vuitton luggage, Midler embraces the audience with her warmth and a personality as sparkling as her shimmering outfit (note to Hillary Clinton - if there's any fabric left over it would make for a dynamite pants suit).

At age 62 Midler works the stage with surprising vigor. That's no small feat - the stage is 120 feet long. She manages to make a virtue of the absurd dimensions by pausing theatrically at intervals to catch her breath and even lying flat on her back, declaring she's “exhausted by all the schlepping.”

The 90-minute show zips by, with Midler performing some new material and her best-known songs, including "From a Distance” and "Wind Beneath My Wings." Her voice is most effective in the lower ranges, and tends to veer off key when she starts belting the high notes (at least to my ears). But she seems to derive so much joy from performing that you forgive her anything.

She's joined by her backup singer-dancers, the Harlettes. They're not terribly memorable, nor are the slew of high-kicking chorines (pretty much rhymes with boring) who also try to take up some of the vast real estate on stage.

The show could do with a redesigned set narrowing the proportions of the stage; it was originally built for Celine Dion, who spent five years there in an act that included some Cirque du Soleil-like acrobatics. But Midler is still able to connect with the audience (the arena seats over 4,000) with the help of amusing banter (much of it supplied by veteran comedy writer Bruce Vilanch) and a hilariously vulgar routine in which Midler channels a 93-year-old showgirl named Soph (as in famed entertainer Sophie Tucker).

I often lament that Midler didn't manage her film career more successfully - remember when she was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood? - but setting up shop in Vegas seems like the right move for her now. (She’ll certainly make a mint: the top ticket price is $250.) The title of her spectacular is "The Showgirl Must Go On." The night I was there, the audience wouldn't have it any other way.

- CNN Entertainment Producer Matt Carey

Filed under: Uncategorized

soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Maggie

    This is one unique lady, so much talent, so much soul.....
    I regret that I have never seen The Devine in person but
    I have not missed one of her films. This is , in my opinion,
    the talent which is most outstanding thru the years.......
    Al Jolson first truly all around talent.....July Garland next....
    Barbra ....of course....and Bette..of course you can include
    Sinatra...these entertainers had it all ....singing ...dancing
    acting....and most important....heart....and the talent to
    break yours when they performed....

    April 9, 2008 at 7:51 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Annette Wilson

    I saw the show on March 8. I've loved her for years, but this is the first time I've seen her in person. She was the best thing about Vegas. From the opening tornado to the very end, she did not disappoint - although I am sorry I didn't get the wheelchair t-shirt.

    She made the trip worthwhile and as I told my brother at the end of the show, "I laughed so hard I cried off my mascara".

    April 9, 2008 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Shannon Holt

    Bette Midler makes life better. You won't find anyone who connects with an audience the way she does. This woman is a phenomenal entertainer and a great human being. She saved my life with a song when I was 10 years old, and some of the laugh lines on this face (27 years later) are all her fault. Thanks for everything Bette. Can't believe I finally have a reason to go to Vegas...

    March 26, 2008 at 12:57 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Michael Holtman, Newport, RI

    Shame on you! Look what you've done! You've got me all excited for my trip to Vegas to see Bette this summer, while I sit here at work thinking about how far away that seems. My girlfriend, Kelly, and I have been looking forward to this trip, and it's so great to read that Bette has still got "it". Kelly and I often argue which of her songs is best. I say "From a Distance", while she emphatically says it's "Hello in There". Let's hope she plays both when we see her and we can settle our little lover's quarrel once and for all.

    Oh, and let's not forget Bette's wonderful acting job on Seinfeld!

    March 25, 2008 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Michael Wheeler

    I had the privilege of seeing Bette's show last week. She is just fabulous! I would go see it again in a heartbeat. -Mikey

    March 25, 2008 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. crystal

    Quick question for those who have seen the Vegas show. Does she sing,"Stay with Me" during that show. I am a huge fan and I have seen her Kiss my Brass tour in Atlanta. She is one of the most talented and extrodinary performers I have ever seen. She puts every bit of herself into her songs and her wit is amazing. Truly Divine and very deserving of the "DIVA" title.

    March 16, 2008 at 11:36 pm | Report abuse |
  7. jim

    Can't wait to see THAT BROAD,amazing

    March 16, 2008 at 8:28 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Dee

    I LOVE Bette as an actress...she is terrific really, but singing is NOT her best skill. I will go see her act, but i cannot bear to listen to her warbling. She is often off key and her high range is weak and strangled. Sorry, but she has a mediocre voice that she tries hard to cover with her great acting and flamboyant character. But hey...thats OK. She still made a living from her act so good for her...

    March 16, 2008 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mark

    I remember first hearing her while a senior in college when boogie woogie bugle boy came out. amazing voice. amazing life story, amazing performer. i've seen her three times over the last 30 years and she's still terrific. The Vegas show was great although a little poignant to see her getting older. And yes, she had a little trouble hitting the high notes early in the show. But that smile....worth every penny.

    March 16, 2008 at 7:29 am | Report abuse |

    i have been a fan of hers forever and i can say that no one does what she does. she gleams and should have won the oscar both times she was nominated. after multiple oscar nominations, how could anyone lament her film career....duh! next time do your research MATT!

    March 14, 2008 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. chris

    A sung note is either off key or it isn't. If you aren't sure of the distinction, you shouldn't be writing music criticism.

    March 14, 2008 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Rik GITLIN

    Bette Midler was my next door neighbor for years in LA. She was and is a great Mom first and foremost. She is funny, of course, but if any one out there saw her in concert during the first years of AIDS, when everyone seemed to know someone sick or dying, she never forgot where she came from: a cabaret singer in a gay bathhouse. She gave amazing concerts in San Francisco after years of being a 'film star' and those of us who saw her then were amazed by the sense that she hadn't done concerts for a few years. When she drops the Diva facade and connects with the audience in 'From a Distance' or the haunting "Hello in There" you know you are in the company of an incomparable star. Her latest incarnation, as the People's Diva is perfect and well-deserved! Our best to her: Rik

    March 14, 2008 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  13. Steve Mills

    I am probably one of the very few people still alive who had the privilege of watching "The Divine Miss M" perform live at the Continental Baths in New York City back in the day (the early 70's) with Barry Manilow accompanying her on the piano. And yes, wrapped only in a towel (me, not Bette!). Bette, if you should read this - I'm still alive and I still love ya!! P.S. Send tics.........

    March 13, 2008 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Michael

    Bette is the best and I look forward to seeing her Vegas show. I also am looking forward to her upcoming Helen Hunt directed movie, "Then She Found Me". I hope this movie and her Vegas show finally proves to the skeptics that Bette is truly unique, original and one outstanding performer. The young entertainers should (and hopefully do!) look up to her.

    March 13, 2008 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Wade

    Alas will not be able to make it to Vegas, but was sooooo fortunate to see Bette perform at Arif Mardins tribute in NYC. Of course she sang "Wind..." (Arif produced it), and she blew me away. Lucky anyone that gets tickets to any of her shows. She is the classiest of the classy!

    March 13, 2008 at 5:02 am | Report abuse |
  16. Jeffrey

    I was lucky enough to see Miss M on February 29th and have to give the woman her props! She as well as her entire cast put on an amazing,raucous,touching show! May Bette enjoy many more years giving us her best... ;0)

    March 12, 2008 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Lori

    I remember first learning of her when in the early 70's she did a rendition of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy...I learned that song forward and back! Sang it every day and I was about 10 at the time! She has always been a fave! I will be going to Vegas in Jan 2009 and hope she is still there and can get tickets!!!

    March 12, 2008 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Andrew Soliz

    I had the opportunity to see the Divine Miss M on Saturday March 8, 2008! What a great show. I certainly was expecting a fun, entertaining show but what we got was so much more than that. It was pure entertainment from start to finish. Just when you thought she was done, she would come back out and do more. She is certainly what you would expect from a 10 million dollar show....great singing, great comedy and showgirls! The show is well worth what I paid. Miss M is sure fire hit!

    March 12, 2008 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Melvin

    I saw the show on Friday March 7th and it was FABULOUS! I was mesmerized the entire time. I would glady pay to see her again......Long live the Peoples Diva!

    March 12, 2008 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  20. Jody Patterson

    I had the pleasure of seeing Bette Midler in Vegas a couple of weekends ago. It was a show like I've never seen before. She is fantastic. I loved the show. I've loved Bette for years and when I heard she was going to be in Vegas I asked for tickets for my birthday!! What a gift! Thanks Bette!! You are the best! Seeing her perform in person does no CD of hers justice. She is a great performer.
    Ps. By the way I have told everyone who will listen, if they go to Vegas Bette's show is a must!

    March 12, 2008 at 12:29 am | Report abuse |
  21. Carly

    As a long time fan of the people's Diva, she was flawless the night I had the pleasure of being entertained by her. It was a dream come true!

    March 11, 2008 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Stephanie

    I never had the priviledge of seeing Ms Midler except on TV. I really just like the person that she is. I know that she will do well in Las Vegas.

    March 11, 2008 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
  23. Michael M. Noonan

    When Cher and Madonnna are long forgotten, there will always be Bette Midler.

    March 11, 2008 at 10:43 am | Report abuse |
  24. Marcia La Mar

    Have you ever listened to words of the songs she sings? They mean something to her & she makes you feel it too.Id gladly pay to see her. She may be over 30 but she makes you feel thing you havent felt in years.Yeah for her & the lucky people who get to enjoy her!

    Listen to"the Rose" if you dont shed a tear your dead! Then listen to
    Soph and you will be laughing till you cry.

    March 10, 2008 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
  25. Mark

    I have been lucky enough to have seen Bette 6 times now, ranging from the 70's to the new Vegas Gig. I agree that a smaller stage would suit her better, however the friends who went with me had never seen her, and they blown away by the show. Any way you slice or dice her, she's still an amazing performer. I'd encourage anybody going to Vegas to see it.

    March 10, 2008 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
  26. Ginny Bumgardner

    We enjoyed every minute of this fantastic show! Bette is still the ONE!!!! The show was entertaining, creative, and totally encompassed the audience. Everyone was singing, applauding and dancing in our seats! How many showbiz people do you know who will roll around on the floor in a mermaid costume? ONLY BETTE! This show is a MUST SEE!

    March 10, 2008 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
  27. phillip

    I first heard of bette in a movie called the ROSE and from then on I was hooked I love every song that she has done and for the movies that she has done so I dont care if the review is shallow I still love the devine miss m. thanks for reading.

    March 10, 2008 at 7:55 am | Report abuse |
  28. Scott Steen

    I had the pleasure of being Bette's solo trumpeter (and Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy) for the entire Kiss My Brass tour and I can tell you that she has integrity beyond the comprehension of most critics. She believes in giving her audiences a complete experience, song, dance and humor. A true Vaudvillian experience. She educates and moves her audience. How many entertainers today can run the whole game, especially at 62. This Diva also has a heart of gold and gives her soul to her fans. And her musicians. SHe still would be a big star on the screen if it weren't for tired, scared studio execs who only see the formulaic money making (and often losing) weak films that we are subjected to today. Bette will tell you she has some stinkers, but she has put out a number of fantastic films and albums not to be forgotten anytime soon. She surprised us all in the studio during the recording of "Bathhouse Betty" which my band Royal Crown Revue recorded on. It was like dropping the needle (on a vinyl record for those under 30) on an old Atlantic blues album. Go get 'em Mom! if you are interested.

    March 10, 2008 at 1:09 am | Report abuse |
  29. RR

    Darlene! I second you.

    Ms. Midler doesn't need defending but I will just say this, in Vegas or on the Lido there a few to none who can do what Bette Midler can do on stage. While I will admit that I am not a fan of the "From a Distance" years if you are ever fortunate enough to see her sing, scamper, break your heart with a tune you'll have had a rare treat in deed. Not many people do what Bette Midler can do and that is a sad true statement. Long may she wave.

    March 9, 2008 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Greg

    Thanks for the positive review of Bette's new show in Vegas. I can't wait to see her this summer. I'm planning an entire vacation around seeing Bette. With all the positive reviews I've read on-line, I'm even more excited to see her! She is a true legend. Young Hollywood has nothing on Bette and Bette has more talent in a finger nail than young Hollywood actors and/or singers wished they had!

    March 9, 2008 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  31. Darlene

    Matt, your blog shows a lack of real knowledge of Ms Midler's entire career as a person. Her life alone is an incredible story. She hasn't changed her "Review" that much over the years, just adding new songs, but it is a well loved one. She has an incredible resume of sorts of her journey from early years to Hollywood. She is FIRMLY in charge of her movie career, and believe me if she wanted to do more films, she would do them. She doesn't feel the need to and never believe she's not still one of the biggest stars, as if that's really important. Your review is very shallow. Try listening to some of her earlier recordings, duets with Bob Dylan and others, Songs for a New Depression, her earlier "Live" album. I saw her show in the late 70's in Europe and believe me she was dynamite then and now.

    March 9, 2008 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  32. Donna

    I had the honor and joy of seeing Bette's show on Tuesday night. She was divine. What great entertainment.

    March 7, 2008 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |

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