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Bette Midler heads to Broadway for new Sue Mengers play

January 07, 2013|By Steven Zeitchik
  • Billy Crystal and Bette Midler in "Parental Guidance."
Billy Crystal and Bette Midler in "Parental Guidance." (20th Century Fox )

With “Parental Guidance” a surprise hit, Bette Midler is doubling down on her show-biz comeback.

The actress will return to Broadway this spring for the first time in three decades. And she’s doing it with a Hollywood spin, starring as legendary agent Sue Mengers in a new one-woman play titled “I’ll Eat You Last.”

Screenwriter-playwright John Logan (“Skyfall”) wrote the show about the agent, who died in 2011. Mengers was one of the first of the Hollywood superagents, pioneering a role for women in Hollywood; she had in fact represented many of Midler’s contemporaries, including Barbra Streisand, Burt Reynolds and Faye Dunaway.

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Logan said in a statement that upon meeting Mengers he was struck by  her style: “the constant cigarettes, tinted glasses, and perfect blond hair were much in evidence; so too the deliciously wicked wit and stevedore language,” but also by something more emotional. There was, he said, “a sense of sadness, a deep resignation, a woman whose time had passed her by.”

The show will be directed by Joe Mantello (“Other Desert Cities,” “The Odd Couple”) and open at a Broadway theater TBA on April 24.

In addition to her music, Midler made her name on Broadway more than 30 years ago in plays such as "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Clams on the Half Shell,” for which she won a Tony. She began to concentrate more efforts on film as her Hollywood career skyrocketed throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, starring in hits such as “Beaches” and “The First Wives Club.”

Though received tepidly by critics, Midler’s “Parental Guidance” has been a fan favorite. The movie, which stars Midler as a sweet if at times cringingly trend-chasing grandmother, has tallied more than $50 million since opening on Christmas Day.

Midler, who has lately been on the stage more in Las Vegas shows such as “The Showgirl Must Go On,” said as recently as November that she doesn't get many film roles. She told my colleague Amy Kaufman that "I don't get offers…The movie business is a young person's game. I don't think they make movies about people my age anymore. Meryl [Streep] gets most of the jobs."

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Follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

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