Judge Clark Douglas is such a diva. He demands a constant supply of oxygen!
The Divine Miss M is Back!
Bette Midler: The Showgirl Must Go On has one of the most peculiar openings I've ever seen on a concert disc. It opens with some terribly shoddy CGI that looks like the disc menu for a low-rent Rango knock-off. A bedraggled donkey wanders in front of a sign bearing Midler's image, a vulture swoops into the frame and tumbleweeds blow by. Finally, after what seems like an eternity, a tornado sweeps through, picks up all of these poor creatures and whisks them to The Colosseum at Caesar's Palace, where Ms. Midler is ready to kick off her latest show.
I don't have any strong feelings one way or the other about Midler's work. She's turned in some decent cinematic performance and written some nice songs, but I don't exactly count myself as one of Midler's super fans. Not that she needs me—her Caesar's Palace audience is large and exceedingly enthusiastic. "Let me hear from all the Jews!" she shouts, and receives a moderate amount of applause. Then she asks for a response from the Christians, and receives a similarly moderate amount of applause. Finally, she asks to hear from the gays in the audience, and receives an overwhelming amount of applause. It should come as no surprise when I tell you The Showgirl Must Go On is a solid hour of extremely campy excess.
However, I must confess that the show has a tonal disconnect, which I find a little odd. Early on, Midler is diva-ing it up, doing a cheesy comedy routine about how fabulous she is, how naughty she is, how much everyone should be appreciating the oodles of cleavage on display (mostly from Midler's increasingly scantily clad "Caesar Salad Girls") and how well she's holding up despite her age. It's Fabulous with a capital F, until Midler abruptly decides to drop all the jokiness and focus on performing her earnest ballads ("The Rose," "From a Distance," and so on). Then the camp machine will roar to life again with a number like "Pretty Legs/Hot in Here" (an energetically performed but comedically wheezy number built entirely on ancient dirty jokes and occasional ejaculations of foul language).
The show doesn't break any new ground, but then it isn't supposed to—at one point, Midler even admits that the jokes are stale, the songs are worn-out (seriously, "Wind Beneath My Wings" is well past its sell-by date at this point), and the act is hokey, but she appreciates the fact that everyone is eating it up, anyway. They do, because they love Midler's sassy, brassy persona and find her tuneful swagger entertaining. If you're firmly in that camp already, then you'll probably have a good time with this brief, swanky concert. However, I doubt it will win Midler any new fans, as the show is more of a sentimental victory lap than a real demonstration of why Midler became so popular in the first place. Her singing voice is still holding up pretty well and the instrumentation is solid, but the actual music unquestionably takes a back seat to the spectacle.
Unfortunately, that spectacle isn't quite as dazzling as it ought to be in hi-def. Bette Midler: The Showgirl Must Go On arrives on Blu-ray sporting a disappointing 1080i/1.78:1 transfer which suffers from extreme softness, some color bleeding and a general lack of pop. There are way too many moments which look like little more than a sparkly blur, and the somewhat garish color scheme doesn't do the concert any favors, either. Flesh tones look a little pinkish at times, too. Definitely not the razzle-dazzle Vegas experience I was expecting. Audio is solid at least, as the mix is robust and involving most of the time (a few moments seem to have trouble finding a balance between the orchestra and Midler's voice). Crowd noise is well-captured and immersive. There are no supplements of any sort on the disc.
Despite all the pomp and circumstance, Bette Midler: The Showgirl Must Go On is a corny, insubstantial affair. Still, Midler fans will undoubtedly have a good time. Too bad the Blu-ray release is weak.
Midler's free to go, but this release is guilty.
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