Review: “The Cher Show” on Broadway, Bitches

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On the surface, “The Cher Show” falls into every pitfall of biographical jukebox musicals — especially and disappointingly making the same mistakes that “Summer” made last season. It has three actresses playing Cher at different points in her life, the plots speeds by like a Wikipedia page, only small snippets of songs are used, the set looks more like a Vegas concert than a musical, and it fails to really capture the scope and magnitude of Cher’s iconic career.

That being said, none of this really matters. The audience, which is made up primarily of gay men and Cher fans, has an amazing time; “The Cher Show” gives the audience everything it could ever ask for. I don’t think I have a seen a more enthused audience in a Broadway theatre. There’s amazing Bob Mackie costumes, there’s hunky backup dancers, there’s plenty of Cher-ism jokes pulled from her tweets, and there is even some feminism in there too.

This new musical, which opened at the Neil Simon Theatre on Monday, is directed by Jason Moore and choreographed by Christopher Gattelli — and to make sure everything is accurate, Cher herself is producing and Mackie did the costumes.

So focus on the rhinestones and the songs you love, and try not to to scoff at the whiplash-inducing, uneven book by Rick Elice. This is quite an easy assignment, especially since our three Chers provide a lot for the audience to love. At the helm is Stephanie J. Block, a Broadway icon playing a pop icon. She plays Star, the oldest, wisest, funniest Cher who guides us through the night. Next is Teal Wicks as Lady, the Lady, the Golden Age Cher. Last is Babe, the infantile teenage Cher played by Michaela Diamond.

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Much like in “Summer” the Chers get more talented the older the actresses get. Part of this is due to the way the songs and scenes have been divided up. Youngest Cher has to ride a tricycle and only gets one or two good songs, so how could she possibly compete? Diamond certainly has a great belt, but her child-like acting is not enjoyable to watch. Wicks has a powerful passion that works very well for the character, since she has to deal with the tumultuous years and the divorce.

But without a doubt it is Stephanie J. Block who steals the show; she is fierce, swaggering, hilarious, and extraordinarily talented. As a very devout fan of Block, I was initially disappointed in her casting; I wanted to see her sing her way, not as a caricature of Cher. However, “The Cher Show” absolutely changed my mind: in no way is Block’s performance a caricature. She has mastered every gesture, vocal tick, tongue movement, side-mouth belt, bizarre articulation, hip pop, and hair flip. Stephanie J. Block is Cher.

Of course, there are the men too. Jarrod Spector is a hilariously nasal Sonny, a perfect 20th century Napoleon (this time with abs!). The only disappointing part about his performance is not so much his height as his scene partner, Diamond’s — the entire schitk of the Sonny and Cher Show comedy is how much shorter he is, but sadly the actors are only an inch or two apart, which makes the constant short jokes feel forced and not funny.

Cher’s other love interests make brief appearances (played by Matthew Hydzik and Michael Campayno) as does Bob Mackie (Michael Berresse). Rounding out the cast is Emily Skinner, sadly under utilized as Cher’s mother. The cast is incredibly talented, as are the ensemble dancers, who are as hunky and muscular are they are poised and precise. If nothing else, “The Cher Show” certainly knows how to appeal to its demographic.

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Speaking of dancing, perhaps the most unexpected portion of the evening was “Dark Lady,” re-imagined not only as a duet between Gregg Allman and Sonny Bono, but also set to a dream ballet featuring the magnificent Angel Reda as a stand-in Cher. In a shocking turn of events, this beautiful and evocative piece is perhaps the most successful and effective dream ballet since “Oklahoma!”.

“The Cher Show” is full of massive dance sequences and dresses full of sequins — including a full Mackie fashion show halfway through the first act. Under the sparkle, it is certainly not a well-written musical, but it is an amazingly fun night of theater. The second act drags a bit, especially after Sonny’s bizarre scene as a ghost, and the show starts to take itself too seriously. “The Cher Show” is most successful when it leans into the camp, when it pokes fun at itself, when it directly addresses the gays in the audiences, when it acknowledges the ridiculousness of it all. Thankfully, it rallies by the finale and gives us the massive “Believe” number we’ve been waiting for.

Admittedly, this is not a great musical, but no one is going in expecting a great musical; everyone is going to see Cher on Broadway, and that is exactly what they get. For fans of high art, well-written, and meticulously constructed musical theater, maybe skip this one (but by extension, skip any biomusical and any jukebox). However, for fans of Cher, of camp, of excess, of gorgeous gowns, of sexy dancing men, of spectacle, of fierce belting, and of having a great time, go see “The Cher Show” right now, it will be the most fun you’ll ever have on Broadway.

Written by

Theater Critic and Queer Blogger. Vassar College alum, currently working toward a PhD at the CUNY Graduate Center.

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