It is a moment when Miss M rips it out of the park and then measures up the plate to create her debut. Is a song-and-dance warhorse, over half a century old, which Midler spins a bit, stirs a bit, shapes a bit, molds somewhat and –voila! — it is a comedy fantasy for a new generation.
Midler is at peak form as the matchmaker Dolly Gallagher Levi and widow out of Yonkers, New York who determines that the turn of the 20th Century is the time. Carol Channing surfaced the character in 1964 on stage, Barbra Streisand played with with her onscreen and now Midler plays with with Dolly for many years. It. Audiences burst with applause when Midler descends the staircase in the Harmonia Gardens restaurant that is tasteful to sing. Turn off as if you can. As if you would want to. If you are fortunate enough to score a ticket (they are rare and Hamilton sexy), you are going to be seeing something historical. Wow, wow, wow.
I really could go on about this particular disgusting, revival that is kick-ass. The potency of Jerry Herman’s music and lyrics, the power of Jerry Zak’s leadership, the dazzle of the outfits and sets of Santo Loquasto, the spirits of Warren Carlyle’s dances which echo Gower Champion choreography. Along with the celebrities! Midler’s final Broadway occasion, 2013’s I Will Eat You Last, on the infamously evil agent Sue Mengers, was a one-woman series free of music. She’s out there using a cast that is huge and a 23-piece orchestra. It requires a skilled actor to maintain the stage. Gavin Creel does himself proud Dolly in dance and love, as Cornelius Hackl. Kate Baldwin is incarnate because his lady love. And David Hyde Pierce, the grumpy, as Horace Vandergelderthat Dolly plans to reform and snag, is an hoot.
But this really is Midler’s show, a thrilling present in the comic force of character who has long dared audiences in her concerts and Vegas stints into “kiss my brass.” Never content to provide audiences exactly what they expect, she keeps springing surprises. Midler is a creative artist who won’t slip by on surface flash, an actress. What Midler does using a tune is a master class in acting. Download her soulful version of “Superstar,” away Midler’s1972 debut CD, and you’re going to hear her change that Leon Russell tune to a haunting one-act playwith.
With atmosphere, delicacy and heat, she discovers that the heart of a character who’s nowhere near as confident. There is a rasp in her voice and a plaintive yearning (“I want a target again/I desire a driveway again”) if she goes to get a notice and a lifetime they might be simply out of reach. Technical proficiency has taken a backseat to urgency in the work of Midler. She does not just sing the part of Dolly Levi, she discovers her heart. Midler is, although the role is constructed for laughs. In doing this, she turns essential that reminds us of exactly what there is a star, and out a shiny bauble of a musical into something funny, touching. It isn’t for nothing that we call Miss M motivated.