Entertainment » Theatre

The Cher Show

by Frank J. Avella
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Dec 11, 2018
Teal Wicks, Stephanie J. Block and Micaela Diamond in "The Cher Show," currently on Broadway. (photo: Joan Marcus).
Teal Wicks, Stephanie J. Block and Micaela Diamond in "The Cher Show," currently on Broadway. (photo: Joan Marcus).  

"If I could turn back time..."

I would ask the creators of "The Cher Show" to work a little harder on story. The reason "Jersey Boys," the granddaddy of jukebox musicals, has lasted so long is because their team created a compelling story and didn't just insultingly assume audiences would accept a splotched-together visual and aural cacophony of greatest moments and hits from a stars life.

"If I could find a way..."

Sure, this tribute to Cher has a few good ideas, some wonderful moments, two outstanding performances and all the songs you'd expect, but what it's sorely missing is a raison d'etre. There is nothing on the Neil Simon Theatre stage that sheds new light about the iconic figure we all know, nor does it provide any dazzling insights into her turbulent love life, meteoric rise and sustained fame, or her sometimes-questionable career decisions. And there are certainly no song renditions that are any better than what Cher has given us time and time again. We thankfully have YouTube to visit to get a taste, not to mention the real Cher who is still touring!

So what is the point? Besides wanting to fleece an audience eager for nostalgia? I'm not quite certain.

Director Jason Moore ("Avenue Q") and book writer Rick Elice ("Jersey Boys") certainly show a lot of love for their subject, actually devising three different Chers to tell the story, and they frame the show as if it were one big '70s variety hour.

This 3-Cher device is actually clever, but is not developed enough. We are basically given the shy, naive "Babe" (Micaela Diamond), sassy sarcastic "Lady" (Teal Wicks), and the legend herself, "Star" (Stephanie J. Block, absolutely killing it).

Cher's beaus are also in the mix, with Jarrod Spector stealing all his scenes as a hunky Sonny (who, I'm guessing, never had that six-pack) and even etching some nuance into the slick and standard proceedings. Matthew Hydzik's Gregg Allman doesn't fare half as well, since the role is written in an embarrassingly one-note, stoner manner. But it's Michael Campayno's "bagel boy" Rob Camiletti who is the most forgettable of Cher's men and, ironically, one that she purported to love.

Costume designer Bob Mackie (Michael Berresse) is also on the scene, and some of the many outrageous outfits he designed for Cher are highlighted.

Add in a misguided dash of Cher's wise mom, Georgia Holt (the always interesting Emily Skinner, trapped in a character that apparently has no faults), and one bizarre scene of advice from the incomparable Lucille Ball (also Skinner, delivering a zinger of a one-liner), and you basically have the people who mattered most to Cher. (Note: Her children are barely mentioned, and when Chaz is, the powers that be are quite careful to steer away from any mention of his transition or how Cher reacted to it.)

One of the myriad mistakes the creators of "The Cher Show" make is in thinking that the production must somehow work in every popular Cher song as well as make sure her life is covered birth to... well current farewell tour. Why not simply take a few important times in the divas life and examine those? Instead, we get a linear bio musical that mentions each milestone, but in the most superficial and cliché ways.

One of the most egregious sequences uses "The Beat Goes On" to streamline through Cher's film career based on her Oscar snubs and recognitions. This segment begins with an introduction to Robert Altman, who directed Cher in her Broadway debut "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean," a failure in its Broadway run that the director turned into a film that has gained remarkable cult status. First the creative team makes an error in assuming that audiences have a clue as to who Altman was and offer no explanation as to his importance to film history. Then, instead of using one of the many fascinating monologues her character has from the play (and film), the song "The Way of Love" (which I love) is strangely used to try and give us a sense of just how much Altman believed in her before she believed in herself. It doesn't work. But it does finally give us a moment where Block brings the house down with her remarkable vocals (which was maybe the plan all along).

Cher, one of the show's main producers, has gone on record as having issues with the show, just as late as a week before it opened. Perhaps they should have listened to her. After all, she is Cher.

Underneath Cher's glitz and dazzle there was, and is, always a scared little girl, but one that was also fearless and daring at every turn in her career. It's a shame the creatives couldn't summon up even some of that same fearlessness and daring.

"The Cher Show" is currently running at the Neil Simon Theatre, 250 West 52nd Street, New York, New York. For more information, including ticket availability, visit the show's website.

Frank J. Avella is a film and theatre journalist and is thrilled to be writing for EDGE. He is also a proud Dramatists Guild member and a recipient of a 2018 Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship. He was awarded a 2015 Fellowship Award from the NJ State Council on the Arts, the 2016 Helene Wurlitzer Residency Grant and the Chesley/Bumbalo Foundation Playwright Award for his play Consent, which was also a 2012 semifinalist for the O'Neill. His play, Vatican Falls, took part in the 2017 Planet Connections Festivity and Frank was nominated for Outstanding Playwriting. Lured was a semifinalist for the 2018 O'Neill and received a 2018 Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation Grant. Lured will premiere in 2018 in NYC and 2019 in Rome, Italy. LuredThePlay.com


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