When we at So So Gay first heard about Divinely Bette, the new one woman tribute act to the brilliant Bette Midler, we could not help but feel that we were on to something special. It wasn’t just the amazing response we heard about from its early beginnings at Brighton Fringe, but also the brilliant sense of humour of the woman behind the one woman show, Kim Sheard. So when we got the chance to interview her ahead of her new run of shows in Camden Fringe we were bristling with excitement, and cautiously optimistic.
When we finally got to speak to Kim the one question we simply had to ask was: why Bette Midler?
‘Well originally it was purely because I was told I looked like her since I was about 12. For a really long time I really hated the comparison, I mean when you are 12 who wants to be compared to a 30 to 40 year old woman? But recently I was singing with a friend of mine who has been helping me along with my singing and I happened to do one of her songs. She just stopped, and looked at me and she said it was freaky how much I looked like her. From there I kind of went “yeah, I could do this” and that is where it was born.’[pullquote_left]… I think I really love her sense of humour more than anything else, she manages to be outreageous without being trashy…[/pullquote_left] Of course we were impressed that she looked the part, but we had to know if there was a hint of the famous funny woman waiting for us, and we pestered poor Kim to find out if she was going to bring that same humour out in her show. ‘Oh absolutely! I don’t think a Bette Midler show would be complete without that sort of humour, and that almost over the top self-mocking….I think I really love her sense of humour more than anything else, she manages to be outrageous without being trashy. She can also be quite bawdy, and things often go a little bit risqué, but not in the same way that more recent comediennes are doing it, with more vulgar jokes. Really I think she is still able to be risqué while keeping an element of class and I really loved that, and the fact that she is not afraid of making herself look silly, which is such an admirable trait. One I wish I had a bit more of.’
We were pleased to hear that Kim was able to channel the bold and brassy character we have all come to know and love. This combined with the positive reviews we had been hearing made us all the more excited to see Kim’s take on Bette. So we were wondering if there was a favourite part of the show that she wanted to tell us about. ‘Yeah, I think there are a couple of bits, but I think it depends on the audience as well. I really love the audience participation side of things, without wanting to sound like I pull people up on stage – because I don’t – a lot of the jokes centre around interacting with someone else, and can be very conversational. So as long as I feel like I am interacting with the audience, in that familiar way it can get hilarious, because when we get the funny asides with the audience it makes it so fun for me because it’s so unplanned. But, I do also have a whole section about tits, which you have to love if you are going to be channelling Bette, and everyone also loves a bit of Soph too!.’
Based on the late great Sophie Tucker, Soph has remained a mainstay of Midler’s routines for many years, bringing a classic and funny edge to her already hilarious shows. Likewise, it’s impossible to forget Delores the wheelchair bound mermaid. Some might call these the productions of a sick mind, but somehow dear old Bette gets away with it. We simply had to know if these old gems were being dusted off by Sheard in her new show. ‘Oh Soph is there, but it’s a little bit harder to have Delores in the show as it is. If I had a bigger set up or maybe more people involved it would be easier. However as I am on my own I don’t really have the time to go turn into a mermaid. At least Bette has her Harlettes so they can hold on to the audience while she changes into her tail.’ The Harlletes of course being the famous Staggering Harlettes, another regular feature on many of Bette’s shows, who act as her backing singers and dancers as she entertains the masses.