Camden Fringe 2012
Upstairs at the Gatehouse
Festival: Camden Fringe
Divinely Bette, a Bette Midler tribute show showcasing all the classics accompanied by a few left of field songs and patter…
Divinely Bette is essentially a tribute to Bette Midler and for fans of her Kim Sheard certainly looks the part. Her patter ensures she also plays up to Midler’s mannerisms. It is clear Bette fans are the target audience. There were probably a few too many jokes about tits with the gag running out its welcome. The few moments of patter between numbers lacked the interesting titbits that perhaps are needed to keep an audience on the edge of their seat waiting for the next exciting number. As someone who doesn’t know a great deal about Miss Midler it felt like often it was taken for granted the audience would know and understand what Sheard was referring to. However her bubbly energy and remarkable similarity to Midler in appearance held my interest.
Sheard is certainly enthusiastic and well versed in all things Bette with a charming tribute rendition of the song about Otto Titsling, the made up tale of the invention of the brassiere. Many of the numbers however lacked light and shade possibly due to the lack of props and set design.This meant that the songs and patter had to cut through and be exceptionally strong to counteract the cavernous dark black space.
The costume change from army shirt dress to pretty pink number was well timed. As a non fan this I enjoyed some of the numbers and the Soph and Ernie staged joke moments (something I was unaware of before the show and googled shortly after) were well executed and funny However my lack of knowledge about Bette and Sheard’s assumptions meant this show is perfect for fans, but those who don’t know much about Midler might not keep up.
It would have been really lovely to see this show done with a pianist rather than a backing track, because though exceptionally portable this show lacks heart and spirit. Perhaps a bit of banter with a pianist would have giving Divinely Bette the heart and soul it needs. Often the mic was too loud (out of Sheard’s control) and unfortunately it is crucial that if you have backing vocalists you are in time with them and sadly there were times when this wasn’t quite so. It also felt that Sheard was off key some of the time. I believe from research Midler is often flat in her songs as well so perhaps this is part of the act, but it was slightly irksome regardless, made up for however by the enthusiasm and energy the show exudes.
Bette Midler fans will like this slightly off the wall tribute with all Bette’s standards and a few extras thrown in, and even if you aren’t a fan and want to know more about The Divine Miss M this show will certainly teach you a thing or two.