Edinburgh Fringe 2015
“‘When I’m on stage – it’s a party,’ quipped Bette Midler. So join in the fun, and catch Sue’s Kelvin’s rollercoaster ride through the Divine Miss M’s fabulous career. Sue covers songs like Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, The Rose, I’m a Woman and Wind Beneath Your Wings, accompanied by Tony Award-winning Sarah Travis. She explores how Bette inspired her to don seven inch platform shoes, and become a West End diva herself, starring in Wicked and Chicago. Oh, and the show also features an outrageous three minute puppet show version of Beaches. Simply divine!”
The nightclub in the Gilded Balloon is filled with fans of Bette Midler, the stage is set, and Sue Kelvin takes the stage to give us a show that is far more than a retrospective of Midler’s fantastic career. It is the story of a little Jewish girl in London who fell in love with the Midler legend. It was her fascination with Bette Midler that propelled her into her own stellar career. And that is the power of this production, written by her husband Chris Burgess and directed by Paul Foster.
Kelvin has starred in West End productions of Les Miserables, Fiddler on the Roof, Chicago, Assassins, and Wicked. She has previously appeared at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Sophie Tucker’s One Night Stand. Time Out said: “It’s hard to imagine a more charismatic leading lady than Kelvin.” And to this reviewer, that is an understatement.
In this show, Kelvin traces Midler’s journey to stardom and tells us how Midler’s successes inspired her as she struggled with a dysfunctional family and her own determination to succeed. Kelvin discusses and compares her personal challenges with those of her idol: weight issues, social hurdles and family problems that parallel her own. It was Midler who inspired Kelvin to don seven-inch platform shoes, and become a musical diva herself!
The glory of this show is in the songs Kelvin sings, ably accompanied by Sarah Travis at the piano and her multi-talented backing singer Alex Young. We hear famous tunes like “The Rose” and “Wind beneath my Wings” and the infectious “Fat Stuff” from Midler’s bathhouse performances. Kelvin touches on Midler’s acceptance by the gay community and her association with Barry Manilow, peppering all the dialogue with song. The show includes an over-the-top three minute puppet version of Midler’s hit movie “Beaches’. Still, the reason the show mesmerizes the audience is the charm and magnetism of Kelvin herself. She is a musical comedy expert who always delivers.
This is a highly polished, professional musical presentation, one that moves and feels like a West End production. Yet, Kelvin manages to give it a personal touch that rings true with every song and every word she utters. The production is beautifully staged, fast paced and laced with humor, pathos and music. It has a happy feel that is so infectious it brought the audience to its feet at the finale. The good news is that it will be performed in London at The Gatehouse Theatre, September 17-27, so those who missed it have a chance to catch a delightful hour of music and memories. “Bette Midler and Me” is a show well worth seeing over and over again.