Upstairs At The Gatehouse 16th – 27th September, St.James Theatre – Studio 2nd – 3rd October, Radlett Centre 17th October. Reviewed by Claire Roderick
Sue Kelvin (the Me in the title) is a lifelong fan of Bette Midler, and boy, does it show. Along with Alex Young and Sarah Travis, Sue showcases some of Midler’s most famous songs. Writer Chris Burgess has cleverly intertwined the life stories of Sue and Midler with hilariously moving results.
The three ladies all have very different and very strong voices, and produce magical harmonies together. How Sarah Travis manages to keep playing the piano so well with all of the insanity going on around her is a mystery to me. Alex Young shows off her skills with the flute and ukulele before her stunning version of From A Distance takes your breath away. Their camaraderie on stage is infectious – at times you want to join in the banter – and the tag team story telling is energetic and slick.
The show takes us from childhood in Hawaii (and Didsbury) through to the present day. Anecdotes from Midler’s life are told alongside Sue’s own life story. The songs the team has selected are very effective in carrying the narrative along, and are fantastic crowd pleasers. As well as recounting the tragedies in Midler’s life, Sue doesn’t shy away from telling of her troubles and losses. She is searingly honest talking about her brother mid song, making her version of The Rose one of the most emotionally raw I have ever seen.
But there are lots of laughs too! Rapid fire one liners and some fantastic visual gags keep you giggling throughout.
The finale is a 3 minute 52 second version of Beaches – with puppets. This is as mad and as funny as it sounds. The cheesiness of the film is embraced and celebrated and the death scene is brilliantly bonkers.
This show has been put together with love and respect – near the end, Sue states that Bette Midler is an inspiration to all of us who never quite fitted in, and trembles with excitement recalling Midler’s latest UK show. There are Bette Midler fans, Bette Midler superfans, and then there is Sue Kelvin!
This is a wonderfully ballsy show with a heart of gold. Brilliant. Just brilliant.