Monday, 29 July 2019

REVUE REVIEW: Bette: From Bathhouse To Broadway - The King's Arms Theatre, Salford.

Bette Midler is one of the biggest divas from the past 50 years. A star of stage, screen and a successful music career, she really has done it all. In this production, Jonathan Booth steps into Midler’s heels and takes us on a journey through some of the most iconic moments of her career.

When Booth takes to the stage he is dressed in what appears to be a toweling wrap-around dress - seemingly making reference to Midler’s early days singing in Bathhouses. Everything looks fantastic from an aesthetic point of view.

Booth has done a lot of work on the character and has a lot of comic material packed into this set to put his audience at ease straight away. He pulled out all the stops to ensure the audience were continually smiling from ear-to-ear throughout.

One thing that stands out above anything else is Booth’s passion for what he does. You can tell he probably knows Midler better than she knows herself. He knows her back catalogue inside out and it’s clear he adores her. His portrayal of Middler came across as effortless, it never seemed forced or like he was trying too hard.

Booth also has great on-stage chemistry with his pianist for the evening - a lot of the humour in the show comes from their exchanges. There was one point where the pianist picked up a book that helped with a joke, however because some of the audience were on the same level as the performance it was difficult to see.

Having been to many fringe performances over the years, you can always get a sense of when an audience is made up predomininantly of friends and family.. This appeared to be one of those occasions. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, you could tell everyone was just happy for Booth to be doing what he loves to do.

Accompanied only by a pianist, Booth takes on some of Midler’s classic songs, such as 'The Rose' and 'Wind Beneath My Wings', alongside some lesser known songs from her early career. Big songs performed acoustically really exposed Booth’s vocal capabilities. While he is a nice pleasant singer, some of the tougher notes in the songs were a bit flat. Honestly, I wouldn’t expect many male singers to hit those notes, so I think Booth shot himself in the foot by being a bit too ambitious.

Bette: From Bathouse To Broadway is a lovely way to spend an evening, and Booth has done a great job in creating the show. If you like camp humour and drag performance then you will adore this show.

Reviewer - Brian Madden
on - 28/7/19

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