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The Best Bette in Las Vegas

The lights on the Las Vegas Strip are now brighter because Bette Midler is here.  Her new show, The Showgirl Must Go On opened for press at the Colesseum at Caesars Palace on February 29, a few days after the official opening night with all it's red carpet madness. Having waited for this night since it was announced in May that she'll be here for 100 performances this year, it is a joy to tell you it was worth the wait.

Her entrance, following a CGI storm and tornado, has her arriving in Las Vegas, climbing down her immense pile of "carry-on" luggage.  Preceded by her wonderful Harlettes along with 18 Caesar Salad Girls — her showgirls — Midler opens with the new show's title song, during which she notes she is "the people's diva" who is as she appears "because of a precise combination of hormones and mood elevators." The night, she promises, will be full of "hits, glitz and spectacular tits."

And so it was.

All the songs were there, from "In the Mood" right through the finale, "The Wind Beneath My Wings." Following the opening number there was really nothing new, but no matter.  When Midler is the singer, the material is always fresh.  And it's lots more than the singing people come to hear. The audience went wild for her comments and basked in the incandescence of her personality.

Finishing the opening number, she said, "I'm exhausted. That's what happens when you do your own singing."  (Cher will be alternating with her beginning in May and Elton John will also be there for several dates, leading to her observation, "Elton, Cher and me.  It doesn't get any gayer.")  Welcoming the audience, she singled out her "tribe," her "gays" and everyone else and noted, "30 years ago the audience was on drugs.  Now they're on medication."

Midler held a "community sing" with "The Rose" but, later in the evening said, "I know you [the audience] like to sing along.  Don't."

Delores Delago naturally showed up, encouraged by the "American Idol" judges, Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell as well as Wayne Newton and Elvis.  Delores' show at the "Daze Inn" in Las Vegas was a "Sunque du So Low" production and it lived up to its name.  This was the only part of the evening that was a bit of a drag.  It could have been shorter.

Soph, the world's oldest showgirl, was there, too.  It's a beautiful set piece ending with a haunting "Glory of Love."

On the whole, The Showgirl Must Go On is an overwhelmingly glorious entertainment that seems to pass in a nanosecond.

The impressive talents of the production staff deserve a great deal of credit.  Toni Basil's choreography, Constance Hoffman's costumes, Michael Levine's sets, Carol Dodds' video production — all contributed mightily to the evening.

Musical director Bette Sussman's orchestra (including the six-piece Fat City Horns that she plucked from a lounge at the Palms) was terrific.

It must be noted that the Colesseum at Caesars Palace is a very beautiful, but very difficult venue. Built for Céline Dion in 2003, the theater holds 4,000 seats.  The stage is 120 feet wide and 44 feet high.  When it opened, a local paper pointed out that it is the size of "a hefty 40-yard field goal in football."  Dion had a huge Dragone-designed production that was so large the star herself often seemed lost.  And, when he is in residence, Elton John complains vociferously and constantly about the size of the stage.  Not so with Midler.  Although Céline has a good six inches in height on her, Miss M owned that stage for each of the 90 minutes of her show.

The audience rightly loved every second. 

The Showgirl Must Go On is spectacular and Bette Midler is one of the wonders of the world. Ticket prices are comparatively steep, topping out at $275.90, including taxes and fees, but the show is worth it. 

Lots of performers have come and gone in Las Vegas over the years. But Bette Midler is the real deal.  During the show she sings, "Las Vegas is my kind of town." It is, and it is. She, by the way, is Las Vegas' kind of performer. Don't miss her.

The Showgirl Must Go On is performed Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 7:30 PM.  Tickets available online at www.caesarspalace.com 

Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images for AEG Live/Concerts West


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