Shubert Theatre, New York • 2018-08-11 • 20:00
Fourth time seeing this production... the second time with Ms. Midler… and the first time with audience darlings Gavin Creel and Charlie Stemp both on stage at the same time.
Shows sometimes go adrift a few months into their run if the stage manager and musical director don’t manage to keep things under control. In this case, the show has become a strange sort of farce.
Ms. Midler, who showed a lot more restraint at the beginning of the run, has broadened her gestures, rushes through her lines like a record played at the wrong speed and speaks with a weird accent that makes her sound somewhat demented. She has also started “interpreting” her songs, changing both rhythm and melody when she pleases.
Sadly enough, Ms. Midler has contaminated most of her fellow players (although David Hyde Pierce always played with a heavy Brooklyn-type accent). With so much indiscipline on stage, some scenes play like they’re out of Benny Hill.
The audience’s enthusiasm seems to increase with the amount of tastelessness on stage. Which only encourages the actors to follow their weird instincts. In the middle of a dance break in “Hello, Dolly!,” Ms. Midler looked at the audience and said “This goes on for a while, so I hope you like red.” A few moments earlier, she had literally “danced like an Egyptian,” much to the audience’s delight.
In my book, that is pretty unacceptable. I couldn’t help thinking of Danny Kaye’s widely reported stage antics when he was in Two By Two. I suppose stars find it impossible not to cater to their audiences’ lowest instincts — “Give Them What They Want,” as they sing in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.
There are other signs that the end of the run is near, like the fact that David Hyde Pierce’s voice sounds muffled every time he wears a hat. But why bother when every remaining performance is sold out?