I picked up this blu ray having read that the show had been trimmed heavily for this release, yet I was still keen to see "most of" Bette's latest Vegas show as I didn't get chance to experience it live.
In truth, I found it a bit of a mixed bag. It's mostly an entertaining performance, and as a comedienne Bette still has the ability to get away with a fairly potent or risqué punchline or two. The voice isn't quite what it once was, and you certainly get the feeling that she's terrified of the upper register - she'll often avoid even slightly higher notes if she can. But she does it with musical intelligence and character, so you end up forgiving her because she still has that rich tone to her voice.
However, at times she does seem to be going through the contractual motions, and when she makes several jokes out of being exhausted you know she's serious. She makes a few well-intentioned jabs at Celine's expense, but comparing their two shows (at least as blu ray viewing experiences) reveals Celine to be the entertainer at the top of her craft versus Midler coasting on lingering goodwill and charisma.
However, it's a solid enough and entertaining show if you're a Bette fan, and indeed my main criticisms have to be levelled at the editing...
Even though it does suffer from being cut to an all-too-brief 67 minutes (not the 54 minutes listed on the Amazon page), there are actually some far more glaring editing problems. In "Do You Want To Dance", for example, it becomes apparent that we're watching footage from a couple of different performances spliced together. Nothing new for a concert recording, but why have - for example - a foreground shot of Bette doing one thing overlayed on a background shot of her in a completely different position? It takes the viewer out of the moment and feels sloppy. And there's a harsh and rushed fade to black at the very end of the concert, which saps all of the atmosphere out of Bette nailing a spot-on finale of THAT song. We hear the crowd going wild over the end credits, the "bows" music and Bette bidding Vegas a good night, but we don't get to watch her take her bows or ovation. A surprising creative decision for a "diva" not to milk her applause, and they'd have added another few minutes onto the running time if they had!
Editing reservations aside, the technical merits of the blu ray are fine, with crisp sound and visuals. Overall, it feels like an inevitably diluted version of experiencing the show live, but then it's an infinitely diluted price tag, so I suppose if you're still keen to get a glimpse of Bette's Vegas show, then it's on balance worth it. Meanwhile, Celine will be sleeping easy.