Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Divine Miss Bette - The Q

Review by John Lombard

A tribute show has to decide whether it will tell the story of an artist or usher us into their presence. Some shows opt to give us a selection of a performer's repetoire leavened with mouthfuls of biography. Others try to incarnate their subject so we can experience a great performer in their prime - or the closest thing to it currently available.

"The Divine Miss Bette" is definitely in the second camp, with Catherine Alcorn becoming Bette Midler in a saucy, slightly parodic embodiment of the already over-the-top diva. The mannerisms are spot-on, with the trademark blinding grin and glory-hugging poses unmistakably Midler, like snapshots of Miss M in concert. Alcorn also has the voice necessary to compete with Bette, doing justice to her many iconic songs.

My first impression of the show was that it was a Vegas tribute act on tour in Oz - and it certainly has the flash and polish for that - but this is actually a homegrown act, demonstrated by the moments where Alcorn would catch us off-guard with a distinctively ocker aside.

Alcorn works her way through Midler's hits with a lot of charm and confidence, mocking the audience for their desperation to get to the ones from movies. Some impressively filthy humour split up the hit countdown: over the course of the night the audience was conditioned to tense up whenever Alcorn announced "I'll never forget it you know." It was a good code that she was about to make us squirm.

Alcorn was supported by two strong back-up singers, mostly there as foils for Alcorn to comically hog the spotlight, but having their own moments like one fun tap routine. The performance at The Q was also notable for some Prince songs performed in tribute to the pop star's passing, further riches in an already rewarding night.

"The Divine Miss Bette" is a default recommendation for fans of Bette Midler, celebrating and parodying the diva in equal measure. A tribute show that has a lot of legs and will hopefully be a springboard for Alcorn to build a notority in her own right.