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BETTE PACKS HER BAGS

Bette Midler says the show she is planning for Caesars Palace will be big but still funny.

“You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to make them laugh,” says the 61-year-old entertainer, who today plans to announce a two-year commitment to the Strip. “I think that’s key in Las Vegas, that I be funny.”

Midler and Cher long have been rumored as the probable replacements for the 4,100-seat Colosseum at Caesars once Celine Dion steps down in December. Cher remains unconfirmed, but Midler’s schedule of 100 shows per year, compared to about 150 for Dion, still leaves room in the rotation with Elton John.

Tickets will range from $95 to $250 and go on sale at noon today at the Colosseum box office and Ticketmaster outlets.

“I don’t want to say it’s a swan song,” Midler said of a commitment that begins Feb. 20 and will call for five shows a week, four weeks at a time. “I always say, ‘I’m not retiring and you can’t make me.’

“But in a funny way, I’ve been working toward something this large my whole life. And I think when it’s over, I will probably go back to something very, very small.”

In a telephone interview, Midler said she was intrigued by the possibilities of both a nontouring production with a large cast and the Colosseum’s technical capabilities.

“I’m doing it because I’m completely enraptured with that theater. It has things in it I’ve never been able to use before. … I’ve always had the lowest tech humanly imaginable.”

Like the current Colosseum headliners, the show will be 90 minutes, but Midler won’t just reprise her last tour, “Kiss My Brass.”

“They told me there were things I could repeat, but they would prefer as much new as possible. That’s a real challenge,” she says.

It was after the “Brass” tour visited Australia in early 2005 that Midler began serious talks with Colosseum operator John Meglen, co-CEO and president of AEG Live/Concerts West.

“I came in to see how it was going here in town. I haven’t spent that much time here” since a 1999 New Year’s performance at Mandalay Bay Events Center.

Coming back, “it just seemed the food is so great, and the energy in the town is really exciting. It just felt like it was the right time.”

Midler played Caesars Palace in 1976, four years after her debut album, “The Divine Miss M,” reinvented cabaret for the rock era. But she never became a Las Vegas regular because she always played big auditoriums.

“I didn’t really do the clubs (except for) early on,” she said. “I always toured because I was promoting records. That’s what the label liked me to do in those days.”

Her movie career began with “The Rose” in 1979 and kicked into high gear with “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” in 1986. Hits such as “Beaches,” “Outrageous Fortune” and “The First Wives Club” detoured her from concert work.

The singer says she hasn’t decided whether she will buy a Las Vegas house or condominium, but she is leaning against it.

“I will say I have two homes here (in New York), and that’s really plenty. … I’m gonna see. I’m taking it very slow. I don’t really know the town. I’m seeing certain areas of town I’ve never seen before.”

In an arrangement similar to Dion’s, AEG will produce the show and take the primary financial risk. Harrah’s Entertainment will share advertising costs and incremental revenue for on-site spending at restaurants and a potential Midler-themed gift shop.

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