Becoming Bette (Room to Play Independent Theatre)
August 11 – 13
“Becoming Bette” is exactly as its label promises. Although its focus and namesake is Bette Middle , it is not a show of impersonation or impression in homage to the Divine Miss M, but rather a share of her inspiration in Elizabeth Scales’ life. And the result is an immensely entertaining one woman show as audience members are guided through the stages of her divadom.
As Scales tells of her life’s iconic moments and beasts of burden, the the adage that you should write what you know proves true. Through show of family photos to provide context to the narrative of sorts, she tells of her early anti-pink persona and Pugsley ‘professional amateur’ performance days. The authenticity and intimacy of these sometimes self-deprecating stories make them the most appealing of the show’s segments and her later life reminiscence of travel tales seem token by comparison.
Scales is an enthusiastic, genuine performer who has created a gem of a show in “Becoming Bette”, sure to shine brighter with each performance polish. As with her 2016 Anywhere Festival work “Tragedy”, the show makes much use of multimedia in support of and conjunction with on-stage action. Although its opening scene of a samba dancing ‘Miss Brazil’ (cue some topical Rio Olympics references), the through-line for which is not clear until well into the show, does not entirely work in cohesion with what follows, the inclusion of video snippets of silver screen monologues of Scales assuming iconic Bette Davis roles is another highlight, showcasing her performance range.
Scales shines, not only in dramatic delivery, but in the show’s many energetic comic scenes and song and dance moments (which even feature an audience sing-a-long). Her ‘I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts’ number, for example, is so fantastic as to see audience members demanding an encore.
While this is a physical show, it also features lots of light and shade, especially as focus moves to its key message about the divinity of woman as unapologetic, spirited and strong, and highlight of the Bette in everyone. “Becoming Bette” is full of wonderful moments; at only just under an hour’s length, it has little time to drag and generally buoyants the audience along in Scales’ journey of self-discovery in becoming Bette. With development of its core concept of persona anecdote, you can Betty White your life that it will only get Bette(r)… a long as the coconuts aren’t cut.