Forget about turning back time. Turn in your gay card if you don’t love one Cher era or another. The Cher Show is the new Broadway musical peering into the life of a pop icon who’s been captivating audiences longer than Keith Richards has been in and out of rehab.
First, the good news: there’s plenty to love about The Cher Show. The three leads who play her at different stages of her life are all powerhouse performers providing one musical thrill after another. Together, they turn classic Cher tracks into a titanic trio that allows Cher to transform into a one-woman Supremes.
What’s clever here is that each of the leads also has some heavy dramatic lifting to do. Micaela Diamond, who plays Cher as a shy novice, takes the singer from childhood to stardom as the timid teenybopper who only comes to life once she steps into a recording booth and blows all the other singers — background and otherwise — out of the studio. Once Sonny Bono (a wonderfully well cast Jarrod Spector) takes on the role of her Svengali, the two rise to rapid stardom, courtesy of Sonny’s two best compositions, “I Got You Babe,” and “The Beat Goes On,” a song that retains every bit of cool it once had, 50 years on.
Once Teal Wicks takes center stage, the focus shifts to the duo’s hard work that landed them The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, a Top 10 TV variety show that was only derailed by Cher’s realization that she was being manipulated, controlled and unable to persuade her husband to accept her as an equal partner. The musical is really burning on all cylinders here, as anyone who was alive and able to appreciate their glory years will revel in the onstage (and backstage) recreations — including a stunning costume parade of Bob Mackie’s insanely inspired fashions.
As the baton is handed off to Stephanie J. Block, the plot begins to turn towards Cher’s reinvention as an award-winning actress. But, just as suddenly as she seems relevant again, her career seems to wobble. Concerned that she’s no longer relevant to an always-getting-younger audience, she returns to her first love — singing. And yes, Block makes the most of every moment in service of Cher’s reincarnation as a diva of the dance floor.
Are there problems? You bet. Cher’s music, so poppy it floats off the stage like blown from a bubble machine, is often at odds with the gravity of her biography. A trifle like “Bang Bang” does little to convey the depth of her anguish at divorcing Sonny Bono, and “Half Breed” won’t take anyone into the private world of a little girl teased because she’s half Armenian.
Perhaps the weakest link is Matthew Hydzik’s grating turn as blues rocker (and keyboardist) Gregg Allman of the Allman Brothers Band, who became Cher’s second husband. To be fair, he’s not given much more to do than chide his gal to relax and take more drugs. But his wig looks pinched from the set of a Clairol commercial, his dialect reads as phoned in from an LA acting class, and he strolls on playing Allman’s haunting “Midnight Rider” as though it’s a ditty from the Cher catalogue. Worse, he then tosses out the Allmans’ hit “Ramblin’ Man” as if sauntering from one dinner theater table to the next — although the real Allman neither wrote nor sang it.
But keep in mind: The Cher Show was conceived as an entertainment, not an excavation. All the touchstones of her life are present and accounted for, including Chaz and her son with Allman, Elijah Blue. But no one wants to wander out of the Neil Simon Theatre thinking how Cher’s led a sad and tortured life. She has persevered. She has endured. She has triumphed. And The Cher Show will make you Believe it.
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Last modified: August 22, 2019