Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Divine Miss Bette

The Divine Miss Bette

 Created by Peter Cox. Starring Catherine Alcorn. Musical Director. Jeremy Brennan. Featuring Clare O'Connor and Sally Hare. The Q Theatre. Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre. April 22 - 23. 2016

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins


The Q Theatre exploded last night. High notes were shattered. Decorum was devastated. The audiences erupted. The band rocked. The backing singers sent sparks flying. The Musical Director slid along the keys and in the middle of it all Catherine Alcorn blew us away as the inimitable, saucy, raunchy songstress of seduction, sassiness and explosive energy, the Divine Miss M.

Catherine Alcorn as The Divine Miss Bette
Photo by Joel Devereaux
I saw Bette Midler in concert in Adelaide in the late Seventies, and Alcorn is all class, from Midler’s dress clinging shuffle to her quick-lipped quips, her impish innuendos and a voice that sweeps us along from soul to pop to rock, to blues and even a touch of boogie. As I remember the divine Miss M has it all and doesn’t hold back to flaunt it. Alcorn’s The  Divine Miss Bette has Midler down to a tee. The shuffling quick stepped walk, the cascading cleavage, the fiery red hair and tight fitting dress that clings as she rolls across the floor. Alcorn is the full-bodied Bette, but more than that she’s the chanteuse with a voice that packs a wallop or reaches deep within the soul. She can titillate and taunt, as well as sweep us away on wings beneath the wind as delicately as the perfumed rose that makes us all want to stand by her, go her own way  and  sing along. Alcorn is Midler and as she raises the roof with Stand By Me, the audience in one impulsive show of admiration rise to their feet to give this star impersonating a star a rousing standing ovation.

Clare O'Connor, Catherine Alcorn and
Sally Hare in The Divine Miss Bette
Photo by Joel Devereaux.
As a tribute to Prince whose unexpected death shocked fans across the world, Alcorn included tribute songs, including Prince’s signature song Purple Rain. It was a segment of deep respect for  a magnificent artist. As well as capturing the emotion of the event, this showed Alcorn’s remarkable range and talent as an artist.  The brassy brash cabaret luminary does not forsake the essential power of Midler, the feminist icon with the inclusion of Helen Reddy’s Angie Baby . Midler has always been her own woman, hear her strong and Alcorn takes to the stage like a forceful whirlwind of independent spirit. Her show is uplifting and life affirming, a force to be reckoned with, bombarding us with irreverent humour and dazzling talent.

Encore upon encore followed the curtain call unil the band and backing singers, Sally Hare and Clare O' Connor left the stage to Alcorn with musical director, Jeremy Brennan to offer up a simple, gentle and captivating Wind Beneath My Wings. And the audience left the theatre on a high, carried out by Alcorn’s brilliant homage to the Divine Miss M.

I noticed that the two seats in front of me were vacant after the interval. Surely it could not have been because of Alcorn’s singing. She is simply superb, a gifted and exceptional talent on the Australian stage with the charisma to conquer the world. It can’t have been because of the band with Jamie Castrisos on drums, Tina Harris on bass  and Joey McCoy on  guitar. They are terrific under the masterful direction of Jeremy Brennan. The backing singers also keep the balance perfectly. O'Connor and Hare enter the madness of the moment with exuberance and hold back to let the spotlight shine on the diva of the show.

Maybe it was the parade of Sophie Tucker risqué witticisms that offended the propriety.  In any case, whatever the reason, they missed the second half of an unforgettable cabaret experience and the gilded opportunity to snap up a CD for a mere $20 – a bargain at half the price.

Catherine Alcorn as the Divine Miss Bette and her team rocked The Q from start to finish. A show predicted to run from 8 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. finally came down at 10.15 p.m.. An adoring audience cried for more and Alcorn delivered with gusto and unflailing energy. If you read this before the end of its all too short season at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on April 23 and you live in the Canberra/Queanbeyan region, drop everything and make it to The Q. This show should sell out many times over and audiences deserve a treat as brilliant as this.