This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001



(photo by Richard Termine)

Bette Midler makes her long-awaited return to Broadway in one-woman show about Hollywood superagent (photo by Richard Termine)

Booth Theatre
222 West 45th St. between Broadway & Eighth Ave.
Friday - Wednesday, $87 - $152

In her long-awaited return to the Great White Way, the Divine Miss M inhabits the role of Hollywood superagent Sue Mengers in the one-woman show I’ll Eat You Last. Midler, making her first nonconcert Broadway appearance since 1967, when she played Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof, is, well, simply divine as the aggressive, ultra-determined Mengers, who was both loved and hated while tirelessly working for such big-time clients as Julie Harris, Steve McQueen, Ali McGraw, Gene Hackman, Faye Dunaway, and Ryan O’Neal. Midler spends ninety minutes as Mengers, wearing a lovely sparkly blue caftan designed by Ann Roth, lounging on a couch in Scott Pask’s elegant living-room set, drinking, smoking, and cursing as she shares intimate moments from her life and career while waiting for a critical phone call from her number one client, Barbra Streisand. She even invites an audience member onstage to get her some booze and a cigarette, revealing her power to get men to do her bidding. Unfortunately, John Logan has not given Midler much of a play to work with. The show is subtitled A Chat with Sue Mengers, and that’s pretty much exactly what it is: a mere chat, not a Broadway production. Logan, who has penned such films as The Last Samurai, Hugo, Rango, Star Trek: Nemesis, and The Aviator in addition to Red, for which he won a Tony, was inspired to write I’ll Eat You Last after meeting Mengers at a 2008 dinner party. His script contains plenty of funny one-liners but is primarily superficial and reverential, paying tribute to Mengers, who died in 2011 at the age of seventy-nine, in a series of worshipful anecdotes that don’t quite come full circle. Midler is delightful gossiping about such Hollywood celebs as McGraw, McQueen, producer Bob Evans, and director William Friedkin, but this chat is more of a pleasing appetizer than a full, satisfying meal.

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