Posted in Bette Midler, expectations, Far From Heaven, high expectations, Kelli O'Hara, low expectations, Sue Mengers

Meeting or exceeding expectation

Expectations met make for a delightful experience. Who doesn’t like to be right? The satisfaction of seeing a top-quality performance is much greater than that of knowing what’s going to misfire.

Bette Midler stars as Sue Mengers in “I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers,” at the Booth through June 30th. Photo by Richard Termine.

In “I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers,” John Logan’s new play at the Booth Theatre through June 30th, the Divine Miss M (and I’ll bet even she’s tired of this moniker attached to everything she does) meets all the highest expectations! Bette Midler makes a divine Sue Mengers, the king-making and contentious Hollywood agent who died in 2011.

Sitting in Sue Mengers’ sumptuous living room, designed by Scott Pask, Midler embodies all the qualities for which Mengers was famous. It’s such a natural performance, Midler just inhabits Sue Mengers. Under Joe Mantello’s direction, Bette Midler’s Sue Mengers is funny, charming, difficult, combative, abrasive irreverent and very entertaining.

The man in the Booth box office warned that there would be no singing in this show, but Bette Midler’s acting sings nonetheless.

“I’ll Eat You Last…” is an intimate and gossipy pleasure.

Julianna Rigoglioso as Janice, Jake Lucas as David and Elainey Bass as Sarah in “Far From Heaven,” Richard Greenberg’s new play at Playwrights Horizons through July 7th. 

Unfortunately, the low expectations we had going in for “Far From Heaven,” at Playwrights Horizons through July 7th, were also exceeded. Richard Greenberg’s book is based on the Todd Haynes motion picture of the same name, with music by Scott Frankel and lyrics by Michael Korie, none of which adds much to the rather thin tale.

As “Far From Heaven” opens, Cathy Whitaker (Kelli O’Hara) is a typical and very conventional New England housewife circa 1957, enjoying the beauties of her home and family. Spoiler alert for those not familiar with the film, Cathy’s story can be summed up as: my husband, Frank (Steve Pasquale) is gay and I’m in love with the gardener, Raymond (Isaiah Johnson).

Kelli O’Hara as Cathy and Isaiah Johnson as Raymond in “Far From Heaven.” Photo by Joan Marcus


“Far From Heaven” is an operetta, and the orchestra’s over-playing the singers interferes with the players’ storytelling. The fine cast are excellent; Kelli O’Hara gives a grand performance; Isaiah Johnson as her love interest is superb. Steve Pasquale is a perfectly despicable Frank Whitaker, torn between what he thinks is normal and what he wants. (See an extended review by TB at VevlynsPen.)

For more information about “I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers,” visit http://www.illeatyoulast.com/. To learn more about “Far From Heaven,” visit http://www.playwrightshorizons.org/