When Bette Midler was bringing her “Divine Intervention” tour to Madison Square Garden a couple of years ago, I was elated at the idea that I was finally going to see my first event ever at the world famous venue (even though I’d obviously seen her in concert many times before). Imagine my Bette-worshipping face, illegally using the office computer at my then dayjob, every atom jittery with anticipation, online with credit card out and ready to purchase at 9:59am. At 10am on the dot, I clicked the mouse on what I felt was mine already by divine right, and read “Tickets Unavailable.” Wait, what? They’ve been on sale for two seconds, how is that even possible? After several failed attempts, I finally started browsing around the interweb on some of the better-known RE-sale sites, and lo and behold, there they were: my tickets, and so many others, available for purchase for double - in some cases triple - the price.
I was devastated.
I was also, as usual, not to be beaten. Upon looking over Ms. Midler’s entire tour schedule and doing a bit of research, I was able to not only see her in concert once again, but I used it as an opportunity to visit someplace new. So a few weeks prior to her show at the Garden, where I would have had to sell my eggs to afford nosebleeds, there I was…. second row up from ground level, seeing my longtime hero entertain and inspire thousands in the heart of New Orleans. It was incredible, AND meant to be.
So it’s no surprise to me, then, that the same situation is happening right now with the new limited Broadway run of Hello Dolly. I was on StubHub just the other day and saw one performance listed with tickets starting at over $800. Cool! That’s more than my parents’ mortgages. One particular Wednesday evening show boasted that it had 499 seats available. Really? 499? That’s like, what… almost half the theatre? I swung by the box office a couple of weeks ago and learned that they do have standing room available for $50. Not bad. I’ve seen a couple of hard-to-get-into shows that way, and it’s tolerable. Although most SR tickets in the city average out closer to the $35 range. But that’s not my biggest dilemma…
As far as musicals go, I don’t particularly care for Hello Dolly. And if memory serves, there is a significant portion of that show that “Dolly” is not in. So each time I’ve contemplated waking up before dawn and heading to the theatre to wait in line, for the first time in my life as far as Bette is concerned, I find myself questioning whether or not it’s worth it. And it’s kind of breaking my heart.
But there’s a very special reason that I am, as of right now, still considering it.
At the time I saw “Divine Intervention,” Bette was just shy of her 70th birthday. There she was, for two hours and twenty minutes with no intermission, singing and dancing and changing costumes and telling jokes with more energy and vitality than most people half her age could only dream of. She really was a marvel to behold, and I thought ‘Where does she get it? Where in the world does all of that energy come from?’ And by curtain call, I realized…. It’s because it’s still fun for her. After all these years, she’s still having the time of her life. And isn’t that the point? With everything this business puts you through, if it’s not fun, then what. Is the GD. Point?
Bette reminds me to check in with myself once in a while and ask, ‘Are you having fun?’ She reminds me of a little girl in a small Ohio bedroom with pink carpeting and unicorn wall paper who used to dress up and sing along to cassette tapes with a smile beaming from ear to ear. Who ingrained in herself the timing of the Sophie Tucker jokes, even though their vulgarity escaped her at the mere age of nine. The same little girl who hid a VHS copy of the “The Rose” in the bottom drawer of her dresser because she knew her parents would say that she was way too young to watch it. (And how lucky those parents were that THAT was their daughter’s wicked idea of rebelling instead of drugs or teen pregnancy.)
So, with Bette in town for the season, I decided that 2017 would be the summer of fun, both professionally and personally. It will involve singing more and taking new types of lessons and classes and writing and day trips and practicing the piano and workouts that involve dancing. It’ll be re-focusing on what I want the work to be, not what I think it should be. And with a vocation that often involves balancing six pots on a four-burner stove, I think I’m not alone when I say that every once in a while, I sometimes find myself too caught up in the latter.
As the divine one says, "Cherish forever what makes you unique. 'Cuz you're really a yawn if it goes."
Who knows… maybe in the coming weeks I will wake up one morning and rush to camp outside the Shubert Theatre for a couple of hours. We’ll see. But there’s one thing I can say for certain; thanks to Bette, I know that whatever I decide to do, I’ll be having a marvelous time.
** July 19th Addendum: Turned out I couldn't stay away. Pics from my first StubHub splurge below. What an incredible revival, and Bette inspired with every note and gesture.
Question: Is it normal to shed a tear or two of joy after the big "Hello, Dolly" musical number? I'm, uh... I'm asking for a friend.