Pop culture has given us the iconic Cher. Broadway is giving us 6 decades of her life through three different “Chers” at the Neil Simon Theatre that commands years of running. Tremendously energetic and empathetic, you’ve got love it. Award winners and drag queens will “kill” to get the outfits designed by Bob Mackie.
Curtains up for what sounds like an overture as we see a logo variety of Chers that culminates into a vamp of If I Could Turn Back Time. Star (Stephanie J. Block), the eldest and of what are her three life stages, is dressed in her iconic outfit with a black leather jacket. She sings and delivers a monologue to the accompanying sailors regarding the past 30 years and earning her wings. She suddenly appears wearing wings.
Star introduces her guest stars, Lady (Teal Wicks) and Babe (Micaela Diamond). Lady is Cher in the mid-years if her career, while Babe is the beginning. The two wonder how Star has stayed so young looking over the years. “Exercise. I even named my dog ‘6-miles’ so that I can say I walk 6 miles everyday.” This is just the first of Cher’s wittiness.
Cherilyn Sarkisian Finds Her Voice – 1952 as Star introduces her youngest self and blond haired Georgia Holt (Emily Skinner), her mother. Complaint of Cher being called “Half –Breed” because of her dark hair and Armenian father (not due to the much thought American –Indian) and yes, the song. Cherilyn is now referred to the role of “Babe” and goes into the song, A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes.
Story is that her father took a hike and left a note as Georgia sings, You Better Sit Down, Kid, telling her that the song makes her strong.
We now go into the 6 decades of Cher with a whole load of songs and production numbers. Throughout the production the three Chers will get together and give advice to one of them. Onto Babe meeting Sonny Bono (Jarrod Spector) at a night club on Sunset Strip.
Sonny tells her, “Look, we got three things. A piano with broken yes, each other, and a philosophy” and promising that they will succeed within two years. Babe requests a sewing machine and Sonny springs for it. This is what must have started Cher’s iconic wardrobe.
Naming themselves “Sonny and Cher” they head for a tv studio for Tops of the Pops in 1965 to sing, I Got You, Babe, the first of many songs that he will write for her. They get married. I have to inject that at this point Spector resembles Bono enough to get away with it. As soon as he opened his vocal cords, the audience went screaming with applause.
Since the years have progressed, we now see Lady portraying Cher’s life as they introduce the Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour. Star now enters to sing Vamp segueing into viewing a multi-mirrored fitting room with racks and racks of gorgeous outfits made by Bob Mackie portrayed by Michael Berresse. The real nine-time Emmy award winner Bob Mackie IS the Costume Designer for The Cher Show. We now go back to Lady doing the singing as she goes into Ain’t Nobody’s Business as a duet with Mackie (the character).
We are introduced to Sonny and Cher’s offspring. They are calling the child “Chaz” and you don’t get to know as to whether “the child” is male or female. Lady is complaining about not getting enough time to spend with Chaz. Bono has Cher sign a contract, not realizing that he will own all of the business, even though the title is Cher Enterprises. Negativity in the family brings the duet to singing, Living In A House Divided. This is also around the time you’ll hear, Bang, Bang, He Shot Me Down. Keep in mind that sometimes one, two or all three Chers will enter into a song.
It is the discussion and protest of the contract and Sonny’s bullying…”You want to go back to being that shy little nobody without me standing next to you? Do you have any idea how lonely you’re going to be?”….that takes her into Song For the Lonely and end of Act I.
Let me pause to give credit to the wonderfully syncopated ensemble due to Director Jason Moore and Choreographer Christopher Gattelli. Zane Mark gets the credit of the dance music arrangements. Of course, the show wouldn’t have life if it weren’t for the third genius…Rick Elice, who wrote the book. Total kudos for Daryl Waters who supervised the music, orchestra and arrangements. Then there is Christopher Jones and Brett J. Banakis who are responsible for the set designs.
Back to the story where she first continues to perform with Sonny on the Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour and divorces him. She then meets Gregg Altman (Matthew Hydzik), falls in love, marries him and a second offspring, Elijah, comes into their lives….but the relationship doesn’t last forever and Sonny comes back just to continue the Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour with her.
Here is where myself and (apparently) the audience considered the best production number in the show. A smoky voodoo dive and Apache Dance depicting the tale of a gorgeous voodoo sorceress with men surrounding her. The song is Dark Lady sung by Sonny, Gregg and the male ensemble. What makes this number and audience (stander-upper) is the dancer portraying Dark Lady, Ashley Blair Fitzgerald. You’ll understand when you see it all.
The show goes into Cher’s career with the movies, Silkwood, Come Back to the Five and Dime, and Moonstruck for which Cher won an Academy Award for the Best Actress. She purposely uses the line “Snap out of it” in the show.
The beat goes on through years of ups and downs as well as acknowledging the death of Sonny. One huge production number fills the final minutes, each from one of Cher’s “Final Tours.” Lady sings Strong Enough and Babe sings Woman’s World in which lyrics say, “This is a woman’s world/All the women in the world stand up/Come together now.” Microphone is handed to Star as she continues by singing You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me. Finale with the whole company singing, Do You Believe.
Now for my take on the Chers. All three showed enormous talent in singing acting and dance moves. There are certain word pronunciations, facial expressions and body movements that characterize Cher. If you turned away to listen, does each of them get that particular sort of twangy sound as well? You call it when you see the show. No doubt that Block was on point with it all and rightly given the character name of “Star.” My recommendation is to see the show when she has the lead that she commands.
Skinner is certainly worth some kudos in both the vocals and portraying Cher’s mother. Yes, she does have more than one scene. Although there doesn’t appear to be a credit in the Playbill, I think it is Skinner that cameos Lucille Ball.
Since there is no list of numbers in the program, I’ll “Cher” this with you in no order. The following are songs written by Sonny Bono: Baby Don’t Go; Bang Bang; I Got You Babe; Little Man; The Beat Goes On; and You Better Sit Down, Kid.
Various artists wrote: A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes; Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do; All I Ever Need Is You; Be My Baby; Believe; Da Doo Ron Ron; Dark Lady; Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves; Half Breed; Heart of Stone; I Found Someone; It Don’t Come Easy; I Like It Like It Like That; If I Could Turn Back Time; Just Like Jesse James; Living In a House Divided; Midnight Rider (written by Gregg Altman); Ramblin’ Man; Song For the Lonely; Strong Enough; Take Me Home; The Shoop Shoop Song; The Way of Love; Vamp; When the Money’s Gone; Woman’s World; and You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me.
The Cher Show’s website will provide you with song lists of each segment of her career, some not necessarily in the show itself such as I Hope You Find It, which I believe she dedicated to Chaz after the gender reassignment. I did notice that the baby blanket was blue and white.
When it comes down to it, the message of Cher is about women demonstrating strength; perfect for March…Women’s History Month. This is a show not to be missed as it’s “Cher” enjoyment. www.thechershowbroadway.com