The Cher Show
Book by Rick Elice
Neil Simon Theatre, New York
Ever since the advent of Mamma Mia, the jukebox musical has become a Broadway staple, guaranteed to bring in crowds of devoted fans to see a stage clone of the favourite artist.
In the case of The Cher Show, book writer Rick Elice, the man behind one of the best of the breed, Jersey Boys, goes two better.
Rather than relying on a single Cher, this 2½-hour biographical run through the artist’s greatest hits is compered by a trio of Chers, in ascending age order Babe, Lady and Star respectively portrayed by Broadway debutante Micaela Diamond, Teal Wicks and Stephanie J Block, all strong singers but the last packing the mightiest punch.
This kind of show thrives on razzmatazz, which makes it strange that the first half-hour is low-key and barely attempts to get out of first gear. Assuming that The Cher Show does last, the producers (include Jeffrey Sellar, a man with Rent and Hamilton on his résumé) might think about sharpening up the opening scenes to fire up the audience from the start in which the dyslexic teenager with Armenian roots listens to the self-improvement homilies of her single parent mother, as a result deciding that her future lies in performance.
Helpfully, at 16, she has the good fortune to meet the much older Sonny Bono, played by Jarrod Spector who spent four years of his life on stage imitating Frankie Valli in the aforementioned Jersey Boys.
The pair get on like a house on fire, both musically and physically, progressing from somewhere not too far from bankruptcy to fame and fortune, primarily thanks to the iconic “I Got You Babe”.
Having sputtered along in front of bland sets, with a story that is almost interchangeable with half a dozen other jukebox musicals, the evening really begins to take off when the pair move to Las Vegas in search of much-needed cash.
Within two years, they have ventured into television adding comedy to the music and become one of America’s best loved double acts, although if the humour in this part of the show is anything to go by, it is amazing that they kept their contracts.
On the plus side, while Sonny did not physically abuse Cher, he was apparently a money-obsessed workaholic who drove her towards a mental breakdown, while taking away her financial worries by siphoning all of the cash from the shows into his own bank account.
The plucky young mother bravely decided to cut her losses and go solo, leading to a far stronger second half filled with ups and downs but also some tremendous songs such as “If I Could Turn Back Time”.
The longevity of Cher’s career is impressive, while the former shy girl’s ability to reinvent herself with the assistance of some great songs and (one imagines) a top plastic surgeon, will ensure that this show has a future on Broadway and further afield.
While the storyline rarely veers from the standard formula, it differs from the norm thanks to the interior monologues developed for three voices, which if nothing else, provide an unusual perspective. More pertinently, the costumes and choreography are to die for, while the music is pounded out in arrangements that are rarely less than lively and sometimes almost literally knock you back in your seat.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher