Cher, born Cherilyn Sarkisian on May 20, 1946 to Georgia Holt and John Sarkisian, also carries the names La Piere (step dad) Bono (husband) Allman (husband). Theater audiences will understand that those names are important in her life when they see “The Cher Show,” a new musical now at the Oriental Theatre.
Sarkisian left after she was born but his genes gave Cher her distinctive coloring and facial features. Her mom was fair skinned and blond.
Sonny Bono gave Cher stage presence and love when she was a teenager, several of her songs, son Chaz Bono and pushed her into television. Gregg Allman gave her companionship and unconditional love and son Elijah blue.
However, what audiences learn as “The Cher Show” plays out in its pre-Broadway tryout, is that mom was always there for her, that Bono, while married to Cher, totally took charge of her career, made a lot of money from it and left her with nothing. They also learn that she had a rocky marriage to Allman, a famed singer, song-writer, musician.
The musical also gives a few of her award examples such as Academy Award nominations and the Oscar she did win for Best Actress in “Moonstruck.”
But it didn’t highlight all her achievements including three Golden Globe awards, Grammy and Emmy awards and only gave brief asides to her chart topping single albums (one in each of her last six decades).
It also doesn’t show her in all her professions. More than an iconic pop and rock star, Cher became what she needed to be for survival and to express herself, ranging from model, author and fashion designer to record producer, song-writer and philanthropist.
Of course, how much can be shown in one musical that is already more than two hours thirty minutes?
On opening night, June 28, the Oriental was packed with Cher fans who seemed merely delighted to hear her songs and learn a little more about her life.
“The Cher Show” gives her fans 35 songs including “If I Could Turn Back Time” which appropriately introduces the musical, “Believe,” the 1998 hit pop dance song that arguably marked Cher’s comeback, and “I Got You Babe,” from Sonny and Cher’s 1965 debut album.
A “jukebox musical,” the book is by Tony Award winner Rick Elice. He presents the story through an interesting concept that somewhat shows what Cher wanted to do and what she did do during each phase of her life. The vehicle is having three actresses portray Cher’s different stages – but not separately. They interact with each other.
Playing their vocally demanding roles with an expertise that is sure to please Cher fan are Micaela Diamond as Babe the young Cher, Teal Wicks as Lady the early successful Cher, and Stephanie J. Block as Star as Star the later successful Cher.
Jarrod Spector is a terrific Sonny Bono, believable, funny and yet able to put across the controlling side of the duo. I’d say partner but the show exposes Bono as not allowing her to have even a small partnership in Cher Enterprises.
Rounding out the cast are Emily Skinner, perfect as Cher’s supportive mom, Georgia Holt, Matthew Hydzik as an excellent Gregg Allman, Michael Campayno as Cher’s young lover, Rob Camilletti, and Michael Berresse as Cher’s famed costume designer, Bob Mackie.
As expected, costumes for The Cher Show are spectacular. Well, they were designed by the real Bob Mackie.
Also looking pop-and-rock-concert good are Christine Jones’ set, Darrel Maloney’s videos and Keven Adams’ lighting. Christopher Gattelli’s choreography adds splash to the pop dance songs and Nevin Steinberg’s fine sound design pulls it all together.
Directed by Jason Moore the show is almost ready for Broadway. That is almost because the beginning and ending appear a bit confused and weak.
Having someone cue Cher’s entrances throughout the musical was fun. It would have been better understandable, though, if it had been clear that “The Cher Show,” drum roll, is actually the name of a TV variety show featuring Cher’s life.
I didn’t catch that idea as I watched the action. It wasn’t until reviewing notes and thinking through the entire show that I thought, “Oh, now I get it.”
The problem with the musical may be the attempt to find an appropriate opening and then, closure to a TV variety show.
A dramatic song rendition, such as the one that drew wild applause in Act II, would better leave the audience saying wow.
“The Cher Show” is at the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St., Chicago, through July 15. Running time: 2 hrs., 40 minutes with an intermission. For tickets and other information call (800) 775-2000 and visit Broadway In Chicago/tickets.
For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago