Bette Midler setting up shop in Las Vegas

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Veteran entertainer Bette Midler is known for her larger-than-life persona as the “Divine Miss M,” but she admits to being a bit intimidated by the huge space she will occupy at her new home stage in Las Vegas.

Bette Midler of the U.S. poses for photographers in a news conference in Sydney, March 30, 2005. Midler is known for her larger-than-life persona as the "Divine Miss M," but she admits to being a bit intimidated by the huge space she will occupy at her new home stage in Las Vegas. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

“The stage is so enormous there’s a terror that you might not be able to fill it all by your lonesome, you know, a little person in high heels,” Midler said recently of her upcoming long-term engagement at the Caesars Palace hotel-casino on the Vegas Strip.

Midler, 61, was set to appear in Las Vegas on Thursday to announce that she has signed a two-year deal to replace Canadian music star Celine Dion in February as the resident performer at the Colosseum, Caesars’ 4,100-seat theater.

With a stage proscenium 120 feet across and 60 feet high, it ranks among world’s biggest, according to Caesars.

And it’s got the biggest (video wall) in the world, and you say, ‘What the heck am I going to put on that? My baby pictures?”’ Midler joked with Reuters in a recent interview.

But Midler, a one-time go-go dancer who launched her career in a Broadway production of “Fiddler on the Roof” and built a devoted gay following while performing at Manhattan’s Continental Baths, quickly added she would think of something.

“We always try to be really ingenious about the way we stretch our people and the way we fill a stage. And I’m sure it’s going to be fine,” said the entertainer, famed for her brassy style and outrageously grand entrances.

She joins a growing list of big-name performers taking up semi-permanent residence in the desert gambling and entertainment resort, among them Prince, Elton John and her former Continental Baths pianist, Barry Manilow.

Midler said Caesars approached her about taking over at the Colosseum from Dion, who is due to wrap up a nearly five-year engagement in December, and the idea appealed to her.

“I thought about it for a long time, and I finally decided ... maybe it’s time,” she recalled, describing herself as “a person of a certain age.”

Though not much of a gambler -- “I can barely count to 21” -- Midler said she enjoys playing Vegas. And setting up shop there is less wear and tear than taking her show on the road, which she did in 2004-2005 with her “Kiss My Brass Tour.”

Still, Midler, whose 1972 debut album “The Divine Miss M” won her the first of three Grammys, hardly plans to sit still.

“Running 120 feet across the stage night after night, at least 14 times a song, I’m sure that’s bound to take some weight off,” she said.

Opening February 20, Midler has signed to play five nights a week for 20 weeks of the next two years. Her shows will run 90 minutes, with ticket prices ranging from $95 to $250 a seat, organizers said.

Although she has barely begun to conceptualize her new Vegas act, Midler said the show would, as always, feature plenty of feathers and sequins, a mix of ballads and upbeat dance numbers and, most importantly, a healthy dose of laughs.

And of course, she will be joined by her famed backup trio, the Harlettes -- “they sing, they dance, they read minds.”

The two-time Oscar nominee (for “The Rose” and “For the Boys”) recently finished shooting her first film in three years, the indie production “Then She Found Me,” directed by and starring Helen Hunt.