BWW Album Review: THE CHER SHOW Takes a Triple Dose of an Icon
The onslaught of jukebox musicals doesn't seem to be ending anytime soon, which, in turn, means that there are an awful lot of cast albums that also double as very well-sung cover albums. That's definitely the case with the original cast recording of The Cher Show, which functions okay as a cast album but mostly rides on its cast's considerable talent and the sheer joy of Cher's catalog.
Like last season's Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, The Cher Show has a trio of actresses portraying different stages in the titular heroine's life. Micaela Diamond is "Babe," Teal Wicks is "Lady," and Stephanie J. Block takes on "Star." The trio opens the show with "If I Could Turn Back Time," and, really, if you're doing a musical retrospective, there truly is no other option for the opening song. All three women are giving top-notch Cher impressions, mixed with their own powerful voices.
That "Cher trio" concept works great onstage, as do their spot-on vocal inflections, but on the album, it can occasionally be difficult to tell the difference between the three versions of the character. Most of the time, the narrative reason for using multiple Chers in one song is a bit murky, at least with just the album to go by, which adds to the "cover album" feeling. However, later in the album, there's a track that really leans into the dramatic possibilities of having the Chers at different ages interact. On "Strong Enough," Block's "Star" advises her younger "Lady" self after a series of heartbreaks and setbacks, and it's a poignant, powerful moment - don't we all wish that we could reassure our younger selves sometimes?
Among the supporting cast, it's Jarrod Spector who has the biggest vocal challenge: where other supporting characters don't need to have a distinctive voice, Spector faces the necessity of imitating Sonny Bono's highly distinctive voice. With big featured songs like "I Got You Babe" and "Living in a House Divided," Spector nails the voice and manages to get some character work in that's noticeable even with only the album to go by.
As far as the other characters who pop up throughout the story, it's Matthew Hydzik who gets the brightest spotlight. With a big, country-tinged voice, he gets the back-to-back duets of "Just Like Jesse James" (with Block) and "Dark Lady" (with Spector). On the flip side, both Emily Skinner and Michael Campayno make the most of what are - on the album, at least - basically glorified cameos as Lucille Ball and Rob Camilletti. Skinner is a delight, duetting with Wicks on "Heart of Stone," while Campayno nails some truly lovely harmonies with Block on the bittersweet duet "I Found Someone."
When it comes down to it, it's hard to truly evaluate a cast recording for a jukebox musical, since the music already exists and is hard to place in plot context without the help of the show itself. What's left is to just judge the talent of the cast, the arrangement of the songs, and the sheer energy. On all three counts, though, The Cher Show absolutely succeeds.