Review: THE CHER SHOW at Capital One Hall

. . . the illusion that Cher is in the house.

By: Feb. 17, 2024
Review: THE CHER SHOW at Capital One Hall
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It takes nothing away from the title character of The Cher Show to say that Bob Mackie's costumes are the star of this show. Beyond the sequins and feathers and colors (oh my!) lies a gift for design, for contrast, for shapes--magnificent, beautiful, imaginative, Tony Award-winning--words that only attempt justice. Fun, too, everyone in this 2018 Broadway show, finally on tour, isn't Cher herself. Mackie's take on what back-up dancers wore on British TV in the 1960s is a hoot. And Cher's mother, energetically portrayed by Lucy Werner, wears a skirt in the 1950s made of chintz printed with large diamond shapes that made a terrific window valence and dressing table skirt in my 1950s bedroom. Fun and then also utilitarian: using black unitards as a ground, Mackie implements substantial changes with layers, using a jacket here, a bolero there, a gown yonder. In one scene, Mackie, briskly and daintily played by Tyler Pirrung, dispatches a costume parade which contains so many garments some of them have to be worn, like proper Cagelles, by some of the ensemble's gents. Ingenious.

Also visually exciting are the projections and sets of Kelly James Tighe and Jonathan Infante. The locations in Cher's biography change almost as often as the clothing does, and their videos and drapes nimbly complement the action and stay out of the performers' way. A troupe of 16 sensational dancers covers every late 20th century popular and theatrical dance type from the Twist to Fosse and everything in between. (Choreographer, Antoinette DiPietropolo) Everyone sings, most of the ensemble have small roles, Emma Jade Branson's featured dancing during "Dark Lady" is a show-stopper.

Book writer Rick Elice (Jersey Boys, Peter and the Starcatcher) made a savvy decision to have three singer/actresses of different ages play Cher at three different periods of her life. Also smart was having them talk to each other, much as all people in their minds routinely talk with their former selves. Doing this presents Cher as a well-rounded, dynamic person, not just the carrier of a juke box. (There are more than 30 songs in The Cher Show!) Three Chers enable the audience to know not just what she said, but what she thought and felt. Elice quotes Cher too--some of it's from TV or Las Vegas shows; her eulogy at Sonny Bono's funeral is poignant. But the script has flaws, mostly in the second act which seems to make the 2½ hour show seem longer. And though The Cher Show is not strictly a documentary, to write a scene between Cher and director Robert Altman and then not name the Broadway play he directed her in seems negligent (It became a film later in 1982, and you can stream Cher's earliest great performance on film in Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean.) Elice also fails to mark the fact that three years before the Oscar committee figured her out and noticed her work, Cher won international acclaim as Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival for Mask (1985).

Morgan Scott, Catherine Ariale, and Ella Perez have Cher figured out for sure. As Star, Lady, and Babe respectively, they have mastered Cher's songbook and are such excellent singers that they create the illusion that Cher is in the house. That Lorenzo Pugliese, as Sonny Bono, is short and has fine comic timing adds to the illusion. Director Casey Hushion makes sure that none of the actors imitate any of the characters, and that's the ticket. But then also each actress, inside a different part of her register, sounds just a little bit like Cher. Because they throw this away, it's thrilling.

The restaurant columnist for The Washington Post from time to time includes in a review comments by his companions; guest civilians are, after all, customers-to-be. My companion at The Cher Show said that the loudness of the sound pierced the ears and made it difficult to get the beauty of a song. This (non-theatre) person also said that the singers' voices seemed good, but that the sound distorted their voices.

Capital One Hall sits right next to the McLean Metro on the Silver Line; it's a comfy 900 seat house with good sightlines. The Cher Show runs through Sunday, February 18.

(Photo by Meredith Mashburn Photography)