Forget the upcoming primaries, forget Bush, Gore, Bradley and whoever else wants the White House. The White House needs Delores DeLago (a k a Bette Midler), and those who saw Delores unveil her platform Thursday night at MCI Center are unlikely to vote for anyone else--once they stop laughing.
After all, Delores is a glamorous and feisty mermaid who square-dances with her backup singers in motorized wheelchairs--you can only hop around for so long on your fish tails--and who has a unrequited fixation on a certain prosecutor, a Mr. Ken Starfish. "You can scrutinize me, subpoena me and penalize me," she purrs, adding, "I would even let you debone me!" Like everyone but George W., Delores has trouble raising campaign funds until she stumbles on that long-last Heart of the Ocean, which leads to further musical wreckage of "Titanic" and a "We Are the World" finale with dozens of life-size puppet caricatures ranging from the pope and Luciano Pavarotti to Michael Jackson, Marilyn Manson and Jar Jar Binks.
In other words, this was a quintessential Bette Midler extravaganza--mixing cabaret, vaudeville and burlesque--and it's the highlight of Midler's first roadshow in four years, the aptly titled "Divine Miss Millennium Tour." Not the only highlight, mind you. You got a sense of what was to come from the opening, when Midler rose out of a huge globe singing "From a Distance" and immediately launched into "I'm Beautiful," her most recent anthem of unrepentant self-esteem and general "fabulosity." Dividing the concert into two acts, Midler touched on most of her musical milestones--her first hit, a 1973 cover of Bobby Freeman's "Do You Want to Dance," recast as a silky torch song; "The Rose," which would benefit from an unplugged rendering; the Grammy-winning "Wind Beneath My Wings"; and the Andrews Sisters' "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," with Midler and her singing and dancing troupe turning MCI Center into a USO canteen. There were also ruminations on romance, the best being Midler's impassioned reading of Randy Newman's "I Think It's Gonna Rain" and the bluesy recrimination of "Stay With Me."
But Midler being Midler, the show was as much stand-up as it was belt-it-out on a wonderfully imaginative set, which she described as "high-tech but lowbrow." Hilarious one-liners, caustic put-downs, self-deprecating asides and ribald revelries abounded, particularly in Act 1, when Midler followed her hyperkinetic, tour-de-farce send-up of Edith Piaf, "I Regret Everything," with a visit to a seedy nightspot called, quite appropriately, the Pits.
Midler also recast Frank Sinatra's signature tune, "My Way," her inimitable way. Perhaps as atonement, Midler closed her show with a light and lovely reading of another song long associated with Sinatra, the saloon classic "One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)." Earlier on, Midler had joked about the concert's high ticket prices, promising, "Trust me, you're going to get your money's worth tonight." For once, it wasn't an empty campaign promise.