In it, Midler plays the late Hollywood agent Sue Mengers, known for her fiery personality and sledgehammer wit. She hobnobbed with such heavyweights as Jack Nicholson, Barbra Streisand, and David Geffen. She was a notorious chain smoker, as well as a smoker of other substances (“The hardest part will probably be acting like I’m high,” Midler told The New York Times.)
A painful part of Mengers’ history is when Streisand fired her in 1981. Midler became friends with Mengers years later, and said she never delved too deeply into the Streisand relationship, which figures into the play. But other friends said the firing was a blow from which Mengers never recovered.
“Deep down there was a lot of pain in Sue, especially over Barbra, and you knew it was there even though she rarely let it show,” said Boaty Boatwright, an agent and longtime friend of Mengers’.
Midler’s first Broadway role was a replacement for one of Tevye’s daughters in the original production of “Fiddler on the Roof” in the late 1960s. Since then, she has found much success on stage and screen, appearing in such films as “The Rose” (her first Best Actress Oscar nomination), “Down and Out in Beverly Hills,” “Ruthless People,” “Beaches,” and “For the Boys” (her second Oscar nomination). She played Mama Rose in a 1993 TV movie of “Gypsy,” and more recently performed in concert at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in “The Showgirl Must Go On.” She has also recorded more than a dozen albums and won three Grammy Awards.
“I’ll Eat You Last” is playing at the Booth Theatre on West 45th Street.