Hell in a Handbag Productions brings back “Bette, Live at the Continental Baths” for a second time around with a fervor that burns brighter than the leading lady’s rendition of “Mambo Italiano.”
As Bette Midler, Caitlin Jackson evokes the very spirit of the incomparable legend at her famed concert at the Continental Bathhouse in New York City. Jackson and David Certa adapted this legendary cabaret act for the stage with Christopher Pazdernik (direction/choreography) and Jeremy Ramey (music direction), the latter of whom also plays Midler’s accompanist Barry Manilow. The casual cabaret setup of the performance space adds to the atmosphere; the only thing missing are the bathhouse robes.
With stellar pipes and quippy stories, Jackson dazzles and entrances the audience and oft allows them to forget that they are not watching the actual Bette Midler on stage. “Chattanooga Choo Choo” and “Chapel of Love” stand out, with Jackson adding her own Midler-like flair and some improvised commentary throughout each song.
With her uncanny imitation of Midler’s glittering eye movement, smiles, scrunches of the face and the intonation of her voice, Jackson holds her stage as strong as “Mother Midler” herself would have. (Danielle Levsky)
Hell in a Handbag Productions at Stage 773, 1225 West Belmont, (773)327-5252, stage773.com, $26-$28. Through September 10.