“Women have to harness their power – its absolutely true. It’s just learning not to take the first no. And if you can’t go straight ahead, you go around the corner.” ~ Cher
Baby Don’t Go
With only one week to go to see The Cher Show on Broadway, I thought it was about time to post this very mixed review. As I had mentioned before, August is not a kind month for Broadway shows with eight musicals and various other plays closing. Unfortunately or fortunately depending on your opinion of the show, that includes the dazzling, yet very quirky spectacle that is The Cher Show.
From Jersey Boys to Head over Heels, the latter of which did very poorly on Broadway last year, Jukebox musicals have been incredibly popular with both the stage as well as film. Using an artist’s music as a backdrop to either tell their life story like Beautiful” The Carole King Musical or a fictional one in the case of Mama Mia or the extremely ill-fated (and bad pun) musical Disaster! As entertaining as they can be, just as many have fallen flat and that is where The Cher Show lies.
Based on entertaining superstar Cher’s life and career, her music is used not just as a backdrop, but to tell her life story. Broken into the three “Parts” of Cher, the musical begins when “Babe,” played by up and comer Micaela Diamond, is a naive teenager with a power house voice seeking fame, fortune, and even love. Babe developes into “Lady” who is played by the highly underrated Teal Wicks. Finding some fame as well as loss she is more aware if not a little bit cynical. Lastly, we have Cher played by the incredibly talented Stephanie J. Block who is the Cher we have come to know and love. All badass, she takes no prisoners while still being inspiring and nurturing.
In an effort to differentiate itself from other Jukebox musicals, all three Chers narrate and mingle onstage giving insight to the real Cher’s frame of mind as well as reflecting on the trial and tribulations she (they?) have grown from.
While it is an interesting concept, it lacked follow through and at times got confusing. Micaela Diamond who showed off her incredible dancing chops in a tango sequence during “Dark Lady,” oftentimes came across as a petulant child, who did not want to listen to common sense and made her unsympathetic. Teal Wicks who is a vocal powerhouse, was highly underused, making me wish we had gotten more of her and her incredible voice.
Stephanie J Block who won a Tony for this role, was the only one who was able to hold her own through out the show, and gave us the Cher we all know and love. She embodied Cher in a way that many times made me feel like I was watching the real one on stage from mannerisms to hitting every note of Cher’s Contralto singing voice.
While it was a huge misstep to have three narrators with Diamond’s Babe disagreeing with the two older and wiser Cher versions, you can not deny the chemistry and friendship these ladies had with each other. In fact my favorite parts of the night were when they were performing together harmonizing in such a way that made me want more.
Casting and Costumes
The script may have fallen flat, but casting hit it out of the ball park. One of the pleasantly unexpected surprises of the show came in the form of Jarrod Spector who played Sonny Bono. He literally took the audiences breath away and audible gasps could be heard through out the theatre as he began to sing I Got You Babe. It was like Sonny had come back to life. It was perfect casting and only fitting for the actor who once played Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys.
Aside from Stephanie J Block and Jarrod Spector, the costumes just might have been my favorite part of the musical. Cher’s own costumer, Bob Mackie who also won a Tony, designed the outfits which were stunning. Intricate, vibrant, glitzy, they just might have been the star of the show.
A medley of some of Cher’s biggest pop hits, the finale number felt (I can imagine) like I was watching a Cher performance mixed with a night out at fashion week, except I was at a Broadway show where the audience members were dancing and singing along. The ensemble as well as Stephanie, Teal, and Micaela, danced their way across the stage wearing gorgeously (and heavily sequined) elaborate costumes that were not only jaw dropping, but made me want one something fierce.
It wasn’t just a musical about Cher’s life using her music to do it, the show was designed to give feel good entertainment and even leave the audience goer feeling inspired, which despite having some major gaffes, it did do all of that.
Cher’s story is incredible. She has done so much to inspire and empower others, while herself overcoming adversity. At seventy-three years young she is still performing and doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. There is a reason she is called the Goddess of Pop. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean it will translate well to Broadway or it will make for a hit show.
In fact many times through out the course of the evening, especially when Stephanie J Block was singing, I felt like I was at a cheaper version of a Cher show then a Broadway musical. It was fun, entertaining, but lacked the longevity and many times made me crave the original.
That isn’t to say it doesn’t have its place in Broadway history. Jukebox musicals will always be en vogue at least for producers. In fact the next artist to get their turn at a shot on Broadway is none other then the Princess of Pop, Brittany Spears. Yes, Jukebox musicals will be around for a long time whether audience members will embrace them remains to be seen. With a national tour announced, a larger, perhaps less critical, audience will be able to experience The Cher Show.
You have one week left to see The Cher Show before it concludes its run at the Neil Simon Theatre on August 18. The Original Broadway Cast Recording is available for purchase from all music retailers.
Have you seen the Cher Show? What do you think about jukebox musicals? What Broadway show are you sad about closing?