Bette Midler and Me

Reviewer's Rating

With a bar and tables, the Studio at St James Theatre is set up for cabaret shows, and last night it was packed to overflowing for a show running for two nights only (last night and tonight). The audience were lucky to have caught the show, for it was brilliant. The basic idea was parallel lives, although perhaps not what Plutarch had in mind. The Jewish American diva, Bette Midler, grew up in Honolulu, while the Jewish British actress, Sue Kelvin, grew up in Didsbury. There are many other similarities, so why not have a show tracing the life of Sue’s heroine, Bette, along with the life of Sue herself? Well, the idea actually works! Sue plays Bette and herself with no Jekyll and Hyde discontinuities.

This is not one woman show, however. It is a three woman show. Sue is joined on vocals by Alex Young, who sometimes takes the lead and sometimes wields her ukulele. The harmonies which the two women create are wonderful, and they are accompanied throughout by Sarah Travis, a virtuoso on the piano. Colin Sell could not do better. The overall effect produced by these three superb musicians is one of pure pleasure. You do not want it to stop.

But there is impure pleasure as well. The gags are great (well done, writer Chris Burgess), not innocent of smut or innuendo, and culminating in a set-piece at the end, a Muppet-style puppet show which had me helpless with mirth. What a shame that this irrepressibly good-humoured show, after a twelve day stint at Highgate, should only have a two-day run in Central London. You will need to go to Radlett on 17th October if you want to catch it this year. Let’s hope it comes back next year. I would see it again.