Archikulture Digest

Bathing In Bette

Bathing In Bette

Conceived, Written and Performed by Cassandra Hohn

Musical Direction by Chris Leavy

Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park Fl</strong>

My introduction to Bette Midler came from a 1970’s TV special. She opened the show in a sequined mermaid outfit with starfish on her boobs and operating a pair of those clacker balls that were all the rage. She announced “Some of you are saying ‘Who is that lunatic?’ But the rest are saying ‘Bring out the brownies!’” This got my attention.

A life time later, the Divine Miss M is rich and famous and insulated in her fame cocoon, and it’s up to the likes of Ms. Hohn to replicate her as best she can so we can all rub our noses on the windows of greatness. With the house backing band of Chris Leavy and Sam Forrest, Ms. Hohn turns her natural Great Plains charm and contralto into a riveting reconstruction of the hits you hope to hear. Near the open, she agonizes on stage about sing “Wind Beneath my Wings” as her mom had requested it for the funeral, so with set up its clear what the closer will be tonight.

Along the way, we hear some of Midler’s more obscure material but all the biggie. “Delta Dawn” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and “When A Man Loves A Woman” draw you in, and the slickly conceived lighting changes give each song its own frame. Act one ends up with “Going To The Chapel of Love”. Dressed in an eight foot long train and looking for a male volunteer, she pulls her boy friend of seven years up on stage. For a guy involved in show business, he looked exceptionally uncomfortable, and I suspect it wasn’t the bright lights. As we lead into act two, Ms Hohn covers one of my favorites, Tom Lehrer’s “Poisoning Pigeons In The Park.” I’m not sure if Bette actually recorded that, but it’s a great sing a long number.

We get stories, we get anecdotes, and we get the hits, but this is clearly a tribute and not a mime of Midler’s material. Hohn is not exactly Midler’s physical type, but her voice is close enough to do justice to all those great victim torch numbers. No clackers, no mermaid suit and certainly no brownies, but as close to the real thing as I’m likely to witness.

For more information on Winter Park Playhouse, please visit http://www.winterparkplayhouse.org


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