Let’s hope Bette Midler’s return to the stage gives her more to work with than her hip grandma character in Parental Guidance. Oh, I liked the movie well enough, but feel like they could have done more with the considerable acting talents of Midler, Billy Crystal, Marisa Tomei and Tom Everett Scott.
But the Boogie Woogie Bugle Girl will likely get more scenery to chew on when she returns to Broadway in John Logan’s new play, I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers.
Directed by Joe Mantello and produced by Graydon Carter, Arielle Tepper Madover, James L. Nederlander, and The Shubert Organization, the play opens on Broadway April 24, 2013 at a Shubert Theatre to be announced.
It’s the first time in 30 years that the Tony and Grammy Award-winning superstar Bette Midler has hit the stage, and she’ll play legendary Hollywood agent Sue Mengers (1932-2011) in the new, one-character play.
A bit about Sue Mengers: She was the first female “superagent” at a time when women talent agents of any kind were almost unheard of. She came from near poverty, a refugee from Hitler’s Germany, and worked her way up through pluck, charm, and a legendary wit.
She basically invented herself, and when the career she wanted didn’t exist, she invented that, too. “Superagent” is a term Hollywood all but coined for her. By the 1970’s, she represented almost every major star in Hollywood and went on to become the town’s most renowned hostess.
It sounds like the perfect role for Midler, because she basically invented herself, too. I’ve had a huge girl-crush on her since I first encountered her bawdy singing style and comedy on the 1972 album, The Divine Miss M. This farm girl had never heard anything like it, and I was immediately smitten.
Playwright John Logan, who won a Tony Award for Red and wrote the screenplay for the most recent James Bond movie, Skyfall, had this to say about the legendary woman.
“I met Sue Mengers only once, at a dinner party. The kaftan, constant cigarettes, tinted glasses, and perfect blond hair were much in evidence; so too the deliciously wicked wit and stevedore language. But something else fascinated me just as much: a sense of sadness, a deep resignation; a woman whose time had passed her by. At one point I asked her what had changed most about Hollywood since she had arrived. She didn’t hesitate for a second: ‘Honey, we used to have fun…’ Later in the evening she settled back and lit up a joint. There she was: a joint in one hand and a cigarette in the other. At that moment I knew I had to write the play.”
Producer Graydon Carter said, “I adored Sue, and no trip to Los Angeles was complete without a dinner at her place. To work with Bette, John, Joe, and my fellow producers Ari, Jimmy, Phil, and Bob to bring her to the Broadway stage is something that I believe would have pleased Sue greatly.”
Producer Arielle Tepper Madover said, “The last show I worked on with John was his Broadway debut, Red, which won six Tony Awards and is now being presented all over the world. It is a joy to be continuing our collaboration with this new play.”
Ticketing information will be announced at a later date.