Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Midler Shines in Broadway Return

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Midler Shines in Broadway Return

Article excerpt

I'LL EAT YOU LAST

New Broadway play, at the Booth Theatre, 222 W. 45th St.

Written by John Logan. Directed by Joe Mantello.

With Bette Midler.

Schedule: Varies.

Tickets: $82 to $142. 212-239-6200 or telecharge.com.

The solo play "I'll Eat You Last," which opened Wednesday night at the Booth Theatre, begins as though it'll be a bumpy ride.

Hollywood super-agent Sue Mengers, played by Bette Midler, addresses the audience with contempt: They're the kind of riff-raff who wouldn't stand a chance of being invited to one of her famous parties.

Since Mengers, who died in 2011 at the age of 79, was known for her adoration of movie stars, it looks like we're in for an evening of obnoxious high-hatting.

It's a false alarm, though. As Mengers begins dishing fabulous dirt about celebrities - I'd tell you what she said about Elton John, but it's unprintable - while interweaving her own rags-to- riches story, she proves delightful company.

That, of course, means Midler is terrific company. In her first Broadway appearance in 33 years - and the first ever in which she doesn't sing - she proves again what a consummate comic actress she is.

We quickly forget Midler's own strong personality, and accept her, with straight blond hair and round glasses, as the witty, flamboyant, foul-mouthed Mengers, who relaxes by smoking a cigarette and a joint at the same time.

The premise of John Logan's script is that Mengers, Hollywood's most successful and feared talent agent in the 1970s, is facing a difficult evening. It's 1981, and things are unraveling.

As she chats with us before her dinner guests arrive, she's anxiously awaiting a call from Barbra Streisand, her biggest client, who's in the process of leaving her for another agent.

Mengers tells us stories, about arriving in the United States with her parents in the late 1930s as refugees from Nazi Germany, and how, through grit and will, she re-invented herself. Beginning as a receptionist, she became not only the very rare female agent, but the most successful, of either gender, in Hollywood. …

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