Broadway in Chicago bow for ‘The Cher Show’ celebrates a superstar
By Philip Potempa
I grew up watching “The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour” TV variety show in the 1970s and in the 1980s, I saw all of Cher‘s film performances which finally led to her big 1988 Academy Award win 30 years ago.
And starting in the early 1990s, and as most recently as 2014, I’ve seen Cher perform in concert at least three times during my 25-year journalism career.
I wouldn’t say any of the above makes me a “Cher expert” by any means.
But decade by decade, she remains a performance icon who is always around and never disappoints. Her’s is a life and career akin to a fine woven fabric ideal for crafting a Broadway musical to celebrate her story, the hit songs and the music that made her famous. Broadway In Chicago and producers Flody Suarez and Jeffrey Seller have made the dream a reality with the Pre-Broadway Premiere of “The Cher Show” now playing a limited engagement through July 25, 2018 at Broadway In Chicago’s Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St. Even though I mentioned my five decades shared with Cher, she’s been in the spotlight working for six decades as an unstoppable force beloved by fans. It’s a pathway certainly painted with plenty of hearts, darts, discovery, romance, razzle and dazzle to fit into a musical that clocks in at just more than two and half hours.
Headed to New York and Broadway in the fall, Cher herself is always honest and never ashamed to admit that some occasional “nips and tucks” only improve the overall final outcome, be it skin or script, and this exciting stage project certainly isn’t immune from the cuts of an editing knife before it debuts on the Great White Way. But what’s already being served up is fun, inviting, nostalgic and entertaining with a magic that enlightens all about the talented young girl from California born Cherilyn Sarkisian. The telling of her story uses a format throughout, with three actresses playing Cher at different stages of her life and career. While this can work fine, I was less sold on the distracting device that has all three age spanning Chers looming about together in nearly every scene, so Cher can talk to “herselves” as a sort of self-examination, all done with a “show-within-a-show” premise that today’s Cher is shooting a television special retrospective about her life and career.
If any of this sounds confusing, it’s really not, as tackled by director Jason Moore with the book by Rick Elice. But it definitely does become cumbersome and distracting during some scenes resulting in loss momentum. Afterall, “The Cher Show” has 35 smash hits to serve up to audiences while showcasing two ex-husbands, an important mother and an incredible timeline yielding award wins that include a Grammy and an Emmy along with her coveted Oscar, all wrapped in the sequins, feathers and the imagination of legendary costume designer Bob Mackie who has created hundreds of pieces for this once-in-a-lifetime extravaganza.
“The Cher Show” stars Tony Award nominee Stephanie J. Block as Cher’s timeless and seasoned icon image. Block has every mannerism, head tilt, wrist movement and eye-roll mastered. She offers a quick wit and savors every line. Teal Wicks is the television variety show and Las Vegas years Cher, with her performance being the least defining of the trio. And then there is Micaela Diamond making her Broadway debut, and capturing every essence and dynamic of the young Cher by investing both heart and soul and achieving success in her every scene. Tony Award nominee Jarrod Spector is the perfect blend of cheese and whine playing Sonny Bono and he recreates every nuance and song note with precision. Tony Award nominee Michael Berresse gets to have fun at every turn as Bob Mackie while Michael Campayno as Cher’s boytoy Rob Camilletti and Matthew Hydzik as Gregg Allman complete the roster of other men in Cher’s life. Tony Award nominee Emily Skinner is perfectly priceless in her casting as Cher’s mom Georgia Holt, who happens to still be alive and well at age 92.
The rest of the cast features Marija Abney, Carleigh Bettiol, Taurean Everett, Michael Fatica, Ashley Blair Fitzgerald, Michael Graceffa, Blaine Alden Krauss, Sam Lips, Tiana Okoye, Amy Quanbeck, Angel Reda, Jennifer Rias, Michael Tacconi, Tory Trowbridge, Christopher Vo, Alena Watters, Charlie Williams and Ryan Worsing.
I’ve not ever interviewed Cher. But I did meet and interview the late Sonny Bono, who was always warm and generous. If he were still around, I think he’d be in a front row seat grinning from ear-to-ear and enjoying every minute of “The Cher Show.”
Tickets for “The Cher Show” are $35-$115. FYI: (800) 775-2000 or www.TheCherShowBroadway.com or www.BroadwayInChicago.com
Philip Potempa is a veteran journalist and published author. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.