It was a mother daughter movie musical thing. She dragged me to ‘On a Clear Day’ and when it was my choice she came kicking and screaming in coloratura, my mum was a singer, to ‘The Divine Miss M’. 11 times in total. But one of the things I remember so clearly is: as Midler jumps and clicks her heels as she leaves after an incredibly moving song, my mum blurted out … “she just can’t help herself!”

And that is what you get in Catherine Alcorn’s homage to all things Bette, THE DIVINE MISS BETTE. You get a channelling of that unpredictable greatness that careers from soulful to silly.  Once she hits that auditorium floor, bewigged and bespangled, Alcorn just can’t help going the full Midler and it’s a thrilling cabaret of congeniality and immersion in the works of a truly great artist.  Times 2.

We wore out the cassette tape on the car, twice, and the video!  So yes, expert and not alone! If you are not already a Bette believer …  it’s simple, very simple, go and be converted. But realistically I’m not talking to you, I write now to my people, my tribe.  The ones who waited all first act for the tassel tickle and were disappointed when there was no tassel on the act 2 cozzie. We who know when ‘Korean War’ becomes ‘last war’.  We who see that fried egg ‘Hello’ snakey wave and it breaks our heart.

THE DIVINE MISS BETTE is a stunning achievement in the cover band tradition.  It completely breaks from the obsequious to become a different art form, one which takes the work of a living performer and envelops her fans in the shared experience of joyous adoration.  Alcorn has a bigger than life character here, she’s brassy and boisterous and the physicality only makes the diva greater.  She had the totter and the patter just right in the first act evocation of that 1970s film of Midler’s stage show.  With an attention to detail that makes my poor heart soar.

The songs are as we remember them through time but with slight orchestrations that diverge only enough to let La Alcorn through, especially in the second act when she gives us music from Midler’s movies. The upbeat execution (one for the fans there) of ‘Miss Otis Regrets’ is enormously engaging as is the sing-along where you least expect it.  Like the namesake she can bring the audience in to a close moment and then explode into a brash ballbuster of a song.

Alcorn is a master performer too.  Always alert to the throw, she pulls you down from the Gods or looks you in the eye in the front rows.  Her in-audience work is so much fun and she has the rare gift of being able to fully improvise in character without a misstep on those sparkly red heels.  “Give me some house lights” means danger for the bloke who yelled out … no no novocaine can calm him down after he has been well and truly Betted.

The girl can’t help it.  Even in ‘From a Distance’ she echoes herself… with exactly the comic instincts we expect of the original.  With a voice like that you can do anything!  Breathtaking highs and warm rich lows when she occasionally drops down. ‘Stay With Me Baby’ is raw and plaintive and swells with the volume of the band and The Staggering Harlettes who all work like Trojans. (there’s another one for free!)  Alcorn even has the slight hand throw of the mic built in for those of us who notice it. Kirby Burgess and Phoebe Panaretos are equally wondrous  in voice and character and the onstage rapport between them is as finely tuned as the extraordinarily well-done choreography.

It’s the whole package this show.  I have hit YouTube pretty hardcore since last night and the inner glow is nice but nothing on the exhilaration of getting on the Boogie Woogie train live that is THE DIVINE MISS BETTE.  It’s in the Studio at the Opera House and as intimate as you are ever going to get with these two divas.  Go to be converted or go to relive your youth but just fucking go, “Sydney you slut!”.

THE DIVINE MISS BETTE  from Catherine Alcorn [Facebook] continues at Sydney Opera House until 26th August.