You Gotta Have Friends

Bette: Xmas at the Continental Baths

 

Cailin Jackson as Bette Midler at Mary's Attic. (Photo by Rick Aguilar Studios)
Cailin Jackson as Bette Midler at Mary’s Attic. (Photo by Rick Aguilar Studios)

3stars

Wrap that towel around you, settle back with a stiff one and get ready to enjoy The Divine Miss M, at her holiday best.

Once again it’s the early 1970’s, and we’re at Manhattan’s popular gay bathhouse where Bette Midler, portrayed at Mary’s Attic by the incomparably talented Caitlin Jackson, came to prominence.

Jackson, her tumbler filled with vodka, is cheerfully serving up an hour of some of  Midler’s best, most beloved tunes. She also treats the audience to a few of Bette Midler’s bawdy Sophie Tucker jokes.

he show is all wrapped up in a colorfully festive holiday setting, courtesy of Jeremy Hollis with Jackson’s wigs courtesy of Keith Ryan. Self-designed costumes assisted by the talent of David Cerda, complete the period look.

Jackson opens her concert with Bette Midler’s signature song, a musical reminder that “You Gotta Have Friends.” She’s accompanied by Musical Director supreme, Tommy Ross (bewigged and costumed to resemble the gifted singer’s famous pianist and musical director).

Several holiday songs are interspersed with some of Bette’s best. Jackson delights with “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” and then changes the mood with her soulful rendition of “Superstar.”

And what would a Bette Midler revue be without at least one of her salutes to the Andrew Sisters? Jackson blows reveille with her bodacious version of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”

Jackson is supported by Terry McCarthy as her hair dresser, and occasionally joined by Trixie and Laverne, two backup singers from her famous entourage of Harlettes. Played by Allison Petrillo and Sydney Genco, the duo opens the second half of the show, enchanting patrons with such spritely numbers as “Santa Baby” and “Sisters” from the movie, “White Christmas.”

When Jackson returns in her glittering Act II costume, she beautifully caresses a soulful ballad entitled “River,” before launching into a toe-tapping Phil Spector medley. Finally, after an evening full of fun, the Divine Miss M ends her Continental concert with her dramatic, “I Shall Be Released” and returns to the stage for a final encore of “Friends.”

This show is a relaxing, festive, fun-filled program of both holiday songs and early Bette Midler classics. Theatergoers will enjoy traveling back in time to the more innocent 1970’s where they’ll enjoy hearing some titillating tales and smoothly sung songs.  With a gin and tonic or a brewski in hand, this is the perfect way to ease into the Christmas season in Chicago.

DETAILS:  “Bette: Xmas at the Continental Baths” is a Hell in a Handbag production at Mary”s Attic, 5400 N. Clark St., Chicago, through Dec. 31, 2019. Running time: One hour. Attendees must be age 21 or older. For tickets and more information visit Bettelive.

Colin Douglas

Additional information about this and other area productions can be found by visiting TheatreInChicago.

 

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