Ben and Bette
The last time I was in New York as Producer of NUMBERS NERDS, I was lucky to sneak away to see two iconic Broadway shows. HELLO DOLLY with Bette Midler and DEAR EVAN HANSEN with Ben Platt.
I was so fortunate to see one rising star – Ben Platt – and a star in her twilight of her career – Bette Midler. Both extraordinary performers and both amazing performances. Both won the Tony this year in the Leading actor/actress category and both received glowing reviews. Both had tough roles to play – each sings about 11 songs and each rarely leaves the stage (mostly to change costumes). Both received HUGE applause on their entrances and both earned standing ovations during the bows. Here are my thoughts about each of them.
Ben Platt faces several significant acting and singing challenges in DEAR EVAN HANSEN. First, the role demands an actor with huge depth of courage. He must look authentically to the audience like he also has some kind of social anxiety disorder. Bringing that to the audience demands tremendous acting skill, of course. But it also demands a personal deep-down investment, a willingness to reveal vulnerability. This disorder shows up in his music as well. Some of the songs are almost patter songs – they go by VERY quickly and if you are not familiar with the music, you may miss some of the wonderful lyrics. The role is also very difficult to sing. Mr. Platt is up to the challenge. There was a bit of controversy from some of his fans during the run because sometimes, he does not stop by the stage door after the show and greet his fans. He responded, very honestly, that his first responsibility is to “self-care” and that because the role is so demanding, he must monitor his after-show behavior. Audra MacDonald responded to the controversy by saying , “You owe no one an explanation. Thanks for giving your heart and soul on that stage every night.” And watching his performance, I couldn’t agree more. I was exhausted; I can’t even think of the word to describe how spent he must have been!
Bette Midler’s Dolly Levi was certainly entertaining. I laughed throughout the show. The vocals of Dolly are written VERY low (for Carol Channing – remember) so sometimes she had to adjust some of the melody lines –but they still sounded great. AND, we must not forget she is over 70! She brought some of her decades of audience pleasing ability to the role, it was great to watch a comic genius “milk” the Harmonia Gardens scene for all it is worth. And, of course, when she comes down the stairs in the red dress – the audience stood up. And applauded….and applauded…and applauded.
What were some of your favorite, iconic performances you have seen? Did they disappoint you or make you glad you were in the audience.
Love to hear them.