The Cher Show
Book by Rick Elice. Songs by various composers.
Reviewed by Robert Viagas
The pop goddess known as Cher (real name Cherilyn Sarkisian) has made only a single in-person appearance on Broadway, in the 1982 drama Come Back to the 5 & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean. And yet her passionate fan base overlaps extensively with that of Broadway musicals, likely because of her swagger, her panache, her endurance, her talent, and her pure star quality—all of which are very theatrical.
No wonder, then, that her new musical biography, unambiguously titled The Cher Show, seems so comfortable on Broadway. Rick Elice, co-librettist of one of the most successful jukebox/star biographies ever, Jersey Boys, weaves all of the above qualities around Cher’s songbook, which has covered five decades of pop hits. These have included “I Got You Babe,” “The Beat Goes On,” “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves,” and “Believe.”
These and two dozen more numbers are performed all are in part by three actresses playing Cher at different points of her life: the youthful “Babe” (Micaela Diamond), the mid-career “Lady” (Teal Wicks), and the worldly-wise elder “Star” (Dee Roscioli, subbing for Stephanie Block at the performance caught). Roscioli is the strongest of the three, followed by the sweetly appealing Diamond, who gives a strong sense of the brightly talented but still innocent Cher of the early days.
Elice’s biographical libretto goes out of its way to be generous to Cher’s discoverer, booster, partner, husband and ex, the late Sonny Bono (Jarrod Spector), who is given credit for his rocket-fuel influence on Cher’s career along with blame for the control-freak workaholism that eventually doomed their relationship.
While this production lacks Jersey Boys’ dramatic complexity, it does a more than respectable job of exploring its subject’s heart, which is what the fans want to see, and why they sang along, clapped along (on “Dark Lady”), and cheered.
The Cher Show plays at the Neil Simon Theatre on Broadway.