There’s quite an impressive performance going on at the Shubert Theatre right now, a dizzying Broadway spectacle. The performance is that being given by the audience for Hello, Dolly! which is under a sort of spell suggestive of rapt Scientologists hearing one more time about how Earth was founded by spacemen from the Galactic Confederacy. The audience cheers the overture, the costumes, the set, and especially—deliriously—the star of the show. Yet the Beatles-at-Shea-Stadium–level pandemonium being unleashed nightly by Bette Midler is somewhat in excess of what is merited. At age seventy-one, Midler sings like a rusty bandsaw being fed into a coffee grinder, and she moves like Frankenstein’s monster in a body cast. When the rest of the cast dances, she shuffles laterally a bit. No matter: the audience cheers lustily when we first see her, and again when she...


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