Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Review of "The Cher Show"

Almost anyone who has seen The Cher Show, the mildly diverting jukebox musical tracing the highs and lows of the iconic singer and actress, will agree that Stephanie J. Block, who plays the eldest of the talented performers playing the show’s namesake, is sensational.  Sure to receive a Tony nomination for Best Actress in a Musical, this year might finally be Ms. Block’s time.  Can you believe?
The three Chers from "The Cher Show" - Teal Wicks, Stephanie J. Block and Micaela Diamond.

The production, like last season’s Summer, the Donna Summer musical, casts three women to play the central character at different points in her life.  There is Babe (Micaela Diamond), the teenage Cher; Lady (Teal Wicks), who portrays the diva at mid-career; and Star (Stephanie J. Block), the older, wiser woman.  Unlike Summer, the trio of actresses in The Cher Show appear in combinations on stage, at many moments all together.  In between and during scenes, they discuss their (her) life, show business choices, celebrate the high moments, and lift each other up when all seems lost and hopeless.

The book by Rick Elice, as with many musicals centered on the works of an artist, is problematic.  How should the musical be structured?  What points in a decades long career should be included and omitted?  The Cher Show combines episodic moments that are perfunctory and informative along with more imaginative and artistically satisfying scenes. The result is a show where the parts are greater than the whole, resulting in a lukewarm mash-up.
Jarrod Spector (Sonny Bono) and Micaela Diamond ('Babe' Cher) in "The Cher Show."
The musical covers all the bases you would expect, starting off with Cher’s meeting, marriage, and volatile career with Sonny Bono (Jarrod Spector), with significant emphasis on their television show.  There are her other relationships (Gregg Allman and Rob Camilletti, a.k.a Bagel Boy), singing career, Hollywood phase, setbacks and comebacks.  And, of course, there are the Bob Mackie costumes in all their minimal and sequined glory.  The famous and infamous outfits are paraded throughout the production.

The cast is led by the three actresses that play Cher.  They are engaging, vivacious, and full of passion.  They also possess powerful singing voices.  While Ms. Diamond and Ms. Wicks delivered accomplished performances, it is Ms. Block that truly exudes the star power necessary for the production to succeed at some level.  Her mannerisms, facial expressions, and singing voice are spot on.  But, the seasoned Broadway musical veteran also knows how to deliver a well-rounded, magnetic performance and, here, she makes the audience her own, just like Cher.  Jarrod Spector has Sonny Bono down pat, from his nasal vocalizing to his overachieving drive and his Svengali like control over his wife and partner.  Emily Skinner as Cher’s demanding, but supportive mother, Gloria Holt, makes the most of her time on stage, providing reassuring and compassionate encouragement.
The cast of "The Cher Show."
The songs include all Cher’s most well-known songs, including “Dark Lady,” “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves,” “Believe,” and “If I Could Turn Back Time.”  They are passionately and enthusiastically sung by the cast.

When Director Jason Moore moves away from the straightforward storytelling, The Cher Show, can shine.  This is embodied in the “Dark Lady” production and the wonderfully frivolous move sequence featuring racks and racks of Bob Mackie designs.  The director also manages to bring forth an undercurrent of female empowerment as, but the show’s end, the singer/actress is a more confident, self-directed performer.

Choreographer Christopher Gatteli’s dances are energetic and reminiscent of the numbers you would see on a TV variety show or a Las Vegas extravaganza.

Bob Mackie’s costumes sizzle with their outrageous and whimsical designs.  There’s even one of the more entertaining production numbers centered on his creations.

The Cher Show, a nostalgic diversion for the true fan.

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