Broadway Review: “The Cher Show” at the Neil Simon Theatre

Broadway Review: “The Cher Show” at the Neil Simon Theatre (Currently On)
Book by Rick Elice
Directed by Jason Moore
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

Anyone who is or was a fan of Cher during the past six decades will find it difficult to resist the urge to see the new Broadway musical based on her fascinating life and intriguing career that is now playing at Neil Simon Theatre. It would be wise to follow that urge and see for yourself how the beat still goes on. “The Cher Show” follows the same format as a similar musical currently running on Broadway – that show scheduled to close at the end of the year after its successful nine month run. Three actors portray the musical icon at different stages of her life: Babe (an incredible Micaela Diamond in her Broadway debut); Lady (a convincing Teal Wicks); and Star (the incomparable Stephanie J. Block). This reliable convention becomes even more entertaining when in theory, it follows the adage “if I knew then what I know now,” and the characters give each other (themselves) advice. It may seem a bit confusing but the book by Rick Elice, although a bit campy at times, is crystal clear and informative in depicting the highs and lows of a fascinating life and career.

The story begins during Cher’s early childhood and adolescence as Cherilyn Sarkisian is being raised by her single mother Georgia Holt (the always superb Emily Skinner) after her Armenian father left when she was only ten months old. Moving on to her teenage years when she meets Sonny Bono (a solid Jarrod Spector) who was working for Phil Specter, she moves in with him, marries him and they form their infamous dynamic musical duo with the breakout hit “I Got You Babe.” Th musical then moves on to the very successful television variety show and an unpleasant breakup and divorce. Then a transition to Cher’s career as a solo artist and self- determined female in a male dominated industry – after some sound advice from none other than Lucille Ball. Next comes Cher’s Broadway stage and film career, winning an Oscar for the film “Moonstruck” keeping company only with her Grammy and Emmy awards. Along the way, she gives birth to two children, enters another failed marriage to Greg Allman, a farewell tour and residency in Las Vegas at Caesar’s Palace.

“The Cher Show” might be billed as a jukebox musical; however, after viewing the production, one learns that Cher often sung about what she had experienced in life, making her songs fit perfectly into her life story. The supporting cast is more than competent playing several characters that were influential in the star’s life. Choreographer Christopher Gattelli gives his indefatigable ensemble a workout with his energetic production numbers, which they execute with acute precision. Director Jason Moore moves the evening along at a fast pace, never wasting a minute on nostalgia or dwelling on melancholic situations, but always moving forward. Then there are the costumes, and the costumes and the costumes, by Bob Mackie. An endless parade of astonishing, revealing outfits, embellished with fringe and sequins that became Cher’s trademark.

There is nothing groundbreaking about this show, but it is good solid entertainment with performances that would be hard to beat. It sheds some light on the journey of a musical icon but also on a strong, compassionate woman that took responsibility for her mistakes and triumphs. What set her apart was her fearless determination, unsurpassed originality and incessant self-respect and dignity.