What a great way to end the Broadway season! I’m definitely a fan of Bette Midler, and, somewhat more randomly, a fan of the real-life woman she’s portraying, Sue Mengers, the first female Hollywood superagent, who dominated the town during the wild and woolly 1970s. So I had a great time simply being in the presence of Midler and Mengers, as squired onto the Broadway stage by a writer and director who are among the best and brightest Broadway has to offer (John Logan and Joe Mantello, respectively).
As is related early on in I’ll Eat You Last, Mengers was a childhood refugee from Hitler’s Germany, and worked her way up the agenting business through a little bit of charm and a ton of chutzpah. Midler and Logan have very successfully channeled both those qualities, resulting in one of the most generously entertaining one-person shows in some time.
Midler, it bears saying, has never been only a pop singer and screen actor. She began her career in 1960s New York in the plays of off-off-Broadway legend Tom Eyen (who would go on to co-conceive and write the book for Dreamgirls), went on to replace one of the daughters in the original Broadway run of Fiddler on the Roof, and headline highly theatrical stage shows from gay bathhouses to cabarets to arenas. So it’s no surprise that she easily holds the stage with chops and charisma to spare.
That’s even though she remains seated throughout the great majority of the show, as many have noted. Although Mengers could work a phone with the vigor of a prizefighter, she was notoriously physically inactive, so I don’t know why some people expect a realistic representation of her to suddenly start walking all over the place. Grow up, kiddies.
Mengers was one of Hollywood’s favorite party hostesses, a smart and funny woman who made those around her feel their smartest and funniest. In the production’s most effective bit of alchemy, Midler has brought that feeling into the Booth Theatre, and it’s a truly wonderful feeling in which to bathe.
For tickets, click here.