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Bette Midler… and Me – Edinburgh Fringe

There’s a magnetic energy about Sue Kelvin, who connected brilliantly with the audience at the performance I attended. The cynic in me wants to say that if you’ve got a show called Bette Midler… And Me at the Edinburgh Fringe, the chances are that the people who turn up are going to share Kelvin’s love of Bette. But it is also true that, the life and times of Bette Midler being what they are, there’s a lot to get through.

Bette Midler… and MeAs with any show, somebody somewhere has to make a decision as to what to keep in and what to leave out – Midler’s back catalogue of music alone includes fourteen studio albums, and then there’s the extensive film career, Broadway roles, and charity work. The most ardent Bette Midler fans might well find themselves aghast that a certain aspect of Midler’s extensive achievements wasn’t covered with sufficient depth, but one can’t please all of the people all of the time.

And then there are those who insist that everything their favourite performer does is nothing short of excellent – they won’t like what Kelvin and her fellow performer, Billie Kerr (a musical theatre 2021 graduate from Emil Dale Academy) have to say about Beaches, a 1988 movie which was technically a box office success, in the sense that it more than recouped its costs, but apparently has a highly contrived narrative.

A show of hands proved I was far from the only one who hasn’t seen it, bearing in mind I was in a (proverbial) sea of Bette Midler fans. It wasn’t sufficient for the famed ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’, which features on the film’s soundtrack, to be reprised, sublime though it was: a hilarious three-minute (ish, I didn’t exactly get my stopwatch out) summary with puppets of the film told me all I needed to know.

The personal anecdotes from Kelvin are what make the show so engaging. It’s the kind of show that works brilliantly in a small performance space, though I suspect even in a larger room it would create a living room ambience. This isn’t a rose-tinted look back, with darker moments both Kelvin and Midler’s lives retold with disarming honesty. In the end, however, it’s a celebration, or as Midler herself once put it, “When I’m on stage, it’s a party!”. Kelvin and Kerr harmonise perfectly in this genuinely interesting and inspiring production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Sue Kelvin stars in a tribute show to Bette Midler, covering her life and songs from the perspective of a lifelong fan. Including: Boogie Woogie Bugle boy, The Rose, From a Distance, I’m a Woman, Chapel of Love, Wind Beneath My Wings and The Glory of Love. Plus highlights from Midler comedy routines and an explanation of just how Bette inspired Sue to become a West End diva herself starring in Oliver, Les Miserables, Fiddler on the Roof and Wicked. Also, a puppet version of Beaches! A show that’s heartfelt and hilarious in equal measure.

Bette Midler… and Me
Writer and director: Chris Burgess Musical Director: Sarah Travis
5th – 27th August 2022

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