Stephanie J. Block, Teal Wicks & Micaela Diamond star as the entertainment icon in The Cher Show.
The new Broadway bio-musical The Cher Show opened on the 3rd December at the Neil Simon Theatre with reviews critical of poor storytelling yet praising style and costumes. It seems if you like Cher you’ll love this musical anyway.
Three actors play Cher at different stages of her career. Micaela Diamond (Jesus Christ Superstar for NBC) brings to life the early years as ‘Babe; Teal Wicks (Wicked, Finding Neverland) plays the mid-career-years as Lady and Tony Award nominee Stephanie J. Block gives an award-worthy performance as’Star’, the mature Cher.
The musical includes 35 of Cher’s songs, starting in 1965 with the duet she made with Sonny Bono, “I Got You Babe”, and ends with her 2013 dance album Closer to The Truth.
Written by Tony Award winner Rick Elice (Jersey Boys), the musical is directed by Jason Moore (Pitch Perfect, Avenue Q) with choreography by Christopher Gattelli (Newsies, South Pacific). Costumes are by nine-time Emmy Award winner Bob Mackie, who worked with Cher as a designer on may of her iconic looks, dating back to her appearance on The Carol Burnett Show in 1967.
Read a round-up of reviews below.
Despite an icon with attitude, an armful of pop tunes and a can-do cast, the script never quite finds a satisfying style — or a genuine heart — as a winning stage musical.
What “The Cher Show” rarely does is get real, despite the tell-it-like-it-is attitude of its subject. It only takes itself semi-seriously, keeping genuine emotion at arm’s length.
The pleasures in the show come from individual performances, including Jarrod Spector, spot-on as Sonny Bono and capturing the man’s charm, calculation and nasal twang.
Variety, Frank Rizzo
Is the show good? Certainly not in the sense of traditional musical-theater craft. Would I see it again? Duh, already planning on it.’
‘Director Jason Moore’s production, which breaks new frontiers on Broadway for bare midriffs, underboobs, wigs and paillettes, unashamedly embraces its abundance of trashy-flashy, tacky vintage-Vegas kitsch. But it’s also slyly fabulous and imbued with a plucky feminist spirit that’s quite stirring, basically recounting the story of how the innately shy Cherilyn Sarkisian stopped letting men tell her what to do and found the strength to run her own show.’
‘For all its flaws and unapologetic excesses, I had a blast at The Cher Show, as will any fan.’
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter
The Guardian ★★★
Broadway musical is a mixed bag of pop excess
‘A jukebox ode to the megastar contains some dazzling numbers but suffers from some clumsy storytelling.’
‘Only rarely do the songs tell the story. Mostly they’re slotted in as emotional punctuation (Half Breed, Bang Bang), but frequently they pop as little more than fan service. The Beat Goes On is successfully repurposed to detail Cher’s time on Broadway and in Hollywood, but otherwise the best numbers are the ones that dispense with story entirely, like Ain’t Nobody’s Business, which begins as a song about network censorship and then segues into a hallucinatory Bob Mackie fashion show.’
‘Though there are three Chers, it’s clear from the opening number that Block, with her tigress contralto and comic authority, is the goddess of this particular trinity. Diamond is sweet and Wicks is sharp and they’re fine singers both, but their roles are secondary – inevitable if you imagine the singer’s life as a teleological gallop toward self-actualization.’
Alexis Soloski, The Guardian
‘Except for the dozens of eye-popping outfits Mr. Mackie gorgeously recreates for the occasion, it’s all gesture, no craft: dramatically threadbare and surprisingly unrevealing.’
‘It’s only with Star — the “bad-ass,” mature Cher — that we get a character who rewards our attention. Not only does [Stephanie J. Block] ace Cher’s vocal inflections and physical mannerisms, including the half-mast eyes, the arm akimbo and the dancing-from-the-hair-up hauteur, but she somehow integrates them into a portrait of a woman at odds with the very dream that sustained her.’
Jesse Green, NY Times
‘The Cher Show is an explosion of fabulous excess that survives against all odds under the weight of all its sequins.’
‘I’m still left wondering what The Cher Show is exactly. At times it feels like glitzy Las Vegas revue that, if you were to squint, could easily be the best drag show of all time — although it lacks any actual drag queens.’
‘Ultimately, I don’t hate The Cher Show since, despite all of the mess, it leaves you wanting to Believe!’
Jerry Portwood, Rolling Stone
Entertainment Weekly – Rating B
‘If you love Cher there is probably nothing I could write here that would keep you away from The Cher Show. No discussion of thin plotting, of costumes changes subbing for character development, or of retro har-har jokes will dissuade true believers looking for a bedazzled good time. Except perhaps this: Why not go see Real Cher’
Allison Adato, Entertainment Weekly
‘If We Could Turn Back Time, We’d Skip The Cher Show‘
‘To hear her tell it, Cher struggled most of her life to be taken seriously. When her name flashed in the trailer for 1983’s Silkwood, audiences in the theater apparently laughed. She recalls the jeers. I’m not sure whether The Cher Show corrects this perception, or if it’s part of the problem. While this fleshly, bespangled jukebox musical seems to worship its purple-voiced pop icon, it dances stubbornly on the surface of her phenomenon, rendering her a wry, camp cipher.’
‘Its three leading ladies are working their bethonged butts off. All three rock Bob Mackie’s ridiculous, salacious frocks and finesse the script’s lurching motion from sincerity to silliness. The costumes are a hoot: miles of midriff and retro eye candy that would be ugly if it weren’t hilarious.’
‘The show lacks heart, and heart is what Cher has in abundance. That’s how she survived—which I doubt The Cher Show will be able to do past six months.’
David Cote, The Observer
The Cher Show is the kind of bio musical where two of the star’s real-life love interests, Gregg Allman (Matthew Hydzik) and Rob Camilletti (Michael Campayno), are bestowed the same dramatic significance as an infomercial that Cher did at a low point in her bumpy career.
Only one dance number in The Cher Show manages to replicate the kind of grand, fun-loving awfulness that Cher brought to wearing Bob Mackie’s impressively tacky gowns throughout her career.
Robert Hofler, thewrap.com
Time Out ★★★
‘Directed by Jason Moore, the show whirls through six decades at a dizzying pace that disguises, up to a point, that it doesn’t have much to stand on. But unlike the songs in, say, Beautiful, Cher’s actual hits can’t support that task: They are likeable but skimpy pop ditties. Rick Elice’s script responds to this challenge by skipping past most of them quickly: We hear only snippets before the musical hurries on to some new montage, narration or set change. The show covers so much ground that it can’t dig into any one narrative, and although Cher is known for self-exposure, the storytelling is guarded.
‘Yet it can’t be said that The Cher Show doesn’t provide what it promises: Cher, Cher and more Cher.’
‘Like Cher herself, the musical has the virtue of never seeming to take itself too seriously: It’s a delivery system for fabulousness, right up to its Mamma Mia!–like finale, and as such it succeeds.’
Adam Feldman, Time Out
‘The Cher Show’ on Broadway Has Lights, Energy, Drama, Camp, but No Cher
‘You want a big, loud, bright, shiny slice of Vegas on Broadway? The Cher Show, which opened on Broadway Monday at the Neil Simon Theatre and-then-some delivers, with spangles, fishnets, big wigs, a 35-song strong jukebox of Cher hits primed, and even a fun autotune joke for when she gets to Believe.’
‘This isn’t just spectacle, though Kevin Adams, the show’s lighting designer, and Christine Jones & Brett J. Banakis’ panelled design both rise to the razzle ‘em, dazzle ‘em, migraine-’em occasion. If you are a Cher fan, and if you want to hear portions of her songs, sung beautifully by the three ages of Cher—Stephanie J. Block barnstorming as the lead (“Star”), with Teal Wicks and Micaela Diamond as her two fierce, questioning, joshing, consoling Cher-at-other-times of her life accomplices (Wicks’ character is known as “Lady” and Diamond’s as “Babe”)—then this is for you.’
‘The most lacking thing is the real story about how, after all the downturns and fallow periods, she did come back to fame.’
Tim Teman, The Daily Beast
Date: 19 December 2018
Written by: Simon Raven
Tags: Broadway, review round-up, THE CHER SHOW