BWW Review: Broadway-Bound THE CHER SHOW In Chicago
The pre-Broadway engagement of THE CHER SHOW has made its way to Chicago in a blaze of colorful, over-the-top energy and replete with the artist's chart-topping hits. Three utterly talented women share the title role: Broadway veteran Stephanie J. Block as Star, Teal Wicks as Lady, and newcomer Micaela Diamond as Babe. Together, these actors deliver a powerhouse trio of performances worthy of Cher herself. Diehard Cher fans will be pleased to know that such iconic songs as "I Got You, Babe," "If I Could Turn Back Time," and, of course, "Believe" are in more than capable hands.
THE CHER SHOW does precisely what it's intended to do and does it well: captures the spirit of a determined and unique artist who rose to the top. As most biographic jukebox musicals are wont to do, the show captures Cher's energetic highs and her most maudlin of lows. And while some of the scenes in Rick Elice's book seem clunky, the emotions at the core feel authentic. Particularly because the leads are so well cast. And in fact, the Chers talk to each other-and harmonize quite splendidly-at various points throughout the show. The device may seem cheesy, but it works. It's quite charming to see the wisdom and knowledge of success that Star possesses alongside the idealism of Babe.
Elice's book fares less well in the moments in which it breaks the fourth wall; THE CHER SHOW is framed in the context of Star Cher putting on a show about her life. This framework is introduced at the very top of the show but is not consistently woven into the fabric of the material. Thus the artifice of this device comes through, and it is also not effectively interconnected with the three Chers. As much as the latter might seem the odder concept of the two, it actually works far better.
With direction by Jason Moore, the narrative succeeds in connecting the many terrific and iconic songs in Cher's catalog to the story of her life. The musical presents the numbers in a non-chronological fashion, but they serve to punctuate the emotion of particular scenes. Seeing as that is precisely what songs are meant to do in a musical, it works delightfully.Of course, THE CHER SHOW succeeds most profoundly because it is dazzling-both visually and in terms of the three women who finesse the lead role. Christine Jones and Brett J. Banakis's scenic design and Kevin Adams's lighting design are fittingly decadent, but it is Bob Mackie's fashion parade of jaw-dropping costumes that steal the show. Mackie pulls out all the stops (and also appears as a character in the show, essayed by Michael Berresse). Cher's wardrobe contains wonder after wonder, in a neon bright array of colors and exquisite details-and a ton of sequins. THE CHER SHOW comes together because the women that wear those spectacular outfits seal the deal. As Babe, Diamond makes a convincing transition from Cher's unsure youth to finding her voice as a budding artist. Vocally, Diamond has it in spades as well. Wicks has a keen sense of comedic timing, particularly as she plays off Jarrod Spector as Sonny Bono (also excellent). Yet she also finds emotional gravity when things become tougher for Cher.
It should come as no surprise that Block lives up to her character's Star name. She brings down the house with each song, and her acting shows both vulnerability and power-sometimes within the span of essentially a breath. Block always nails it vocally, and she manages to capture quite well some of the unique qualities of Cher's voice.The supporting cast also deliver big-time in bringing THE CHER SHOW to the stage-and particularly, the men in Cher's life. Spector is delightful as Bono, as is Matthew Hydzik as Gregg Allman (sporting a fabulous '70s wig by Charles G. LaPointe). Emily Skinner makes an enjoyable turn as Cher's mother Georgia Holt. And Michael Campayno is winsome as Cher's lover Rob Camilletti. The ensemble is full of capable dancers and tuneful singers (choreography by the always remarkable Christopher Gattelli). Overall, THE CHER SHOW is a dazzling thrill that can be appreciated by hardcore Cher fans and those who have a more cursory knowledge of the bold and talented artist (this critic included). Diamond, Wicks, and Block will easily have audiences believing in the power of Cher.
THE CHER SHOW plays Broadway In Chicago's Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph, through July 15. Tickets are $35-$115. BroadwayInChicago.com
Photo by Joan Marcus