EVERYTHING YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT THE CHER SHOW
Well, QUEENS ... brace yourselves. It’s PRIDE Month and if you’re not some pea brained, racist, asshole super concerned with which genitals are hard at work in the bathroom stall next to you, then hopefully you know the gravity of what the hell I’m talking about. PRIDE MONTH means June is busting out all over so faggots from Fire Island to Barbra Streisand’s barn house in Malibu are demanding attention must be paid. We take our month very seriously, and frankly, you’re lucky I let you into this fine establishment without demanding 16 bars from your favorite Broadway musical, a case of passionfruit LaCroix, and a fistful of diamonds. Like most of your favorite Chicago gays I’m feeling especially forgiving this PRIDE MONTH because the maharaja of our queer little hearts has gone and made me a musical.
That’s right squirrel friends, the Goddess of pop one Ms. Cherilyn Sarkisian LaPiere Bono Allman has given us a great big glorious gay pride christmas present. Please feel free to pass a note to your emotional support straights to let them know I’m talking about the queen of everything, the one and only Cher. She’s won a Grammy, Oscar, Emmy and three Golden Globe Awards, and now she has her sights set on conquering The Great White Way.
The Cher Show, the musical, based on her life and career began its pre-New York run at Chicago’s very own Oriental Theatre on June 12 and runs until July 15.
Cher’s musical is one in a long line of pop-star driven jukebox biographies to hit Broadway in recent years. Like Carole King, Jimmy Buffett (god, what a disaster that was), and Donna Summer before her, Cher’s show aims to take a closer look at her life and 50-plus year career by setting it all to many of the star’s greatest hits. It’s mostly everything you would expect a jukebox musical to be and touches on various high and low points of her life from her early days with Sonny Bono up through her solo career, reinvention as an actress, and farewell tours.
While news of The Cher Show is super exciting, it is also incredibly nervous making. Jukebox musicals are a bit of a joke to those of us who consider Broadway Musicals to be a religion, but the musical’s artistic team is chock full of creatives with rock solid track records. The book is by Tony Nominee Rick Elice of Jersey Boys fame, Jason Moore, the Tony nominated director of Avenue Q, and Shrek The Musical is directing, Tony Award-winning choreographer Christopher Gattelli from Newsies is choreographing, with musical supervision and orchestrations coming from Memphis the musical orchestrator Daryl Waters. It’s an incredible team with a stellar reputation, but the real star of the group is Cher’s longtime image maker and friend Bob Mackie, the show’s costume designer who is onboard dazzling us with recreations of many of Cher’s iconic looks.
What could go wrong?
Cher knows what’s up and she is clearly not playing around with this one. She has been very present at all stages of the show’s development. Over a year ago, when the project was just getting off the ground, Cher invited the show’s writer to her home in Los Angeles for extensive interviews to discuss the ups and downs of her life and career. Later on in the process she watched a reading of the show, bringing along friends for support and note taking. After the reading, an emotional Cher thanked the director for his work in bringing her story to life on stage. Every moment of the show is based on conversations the star had with the book writer or director, and she has been intimately involved with every aspect of the musical down to the selection of the actors.
Die hard Cher fans will not be disappointed with the music for sure, all your old favorites are there including Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves, If I Could Turn Back Time, Dark Lady, Half Breed, and many, many others. The Cher Show includes 35 songs, everything from 1965’s “I Got You Babe” all the way up to 1998’s “Believe,” and lucky for the artistic team (and us) they have plenty of other music to choose from. It is a jukebox musical after all and do not forget Cher is the only artist in history to reach number 1 on the Billboard charts in each of the past six decades. In fact, she has 33 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, and 51 if you count her duets with Sonny Bono, so suck on that, Streisand.
The use of the pop star’s hits is about as close to other jukebox musicals as The Cher Show gets. Unlike similarly themed shows, the music is not used chronologically while the story is, and some songs are creatively retooled in order to better help tell Cher’s story. For instance, the 90’s dance hit Strong Enough is used to underscore Cher’s relationship with Sonny, and Believe is transformed into a dreamy ballad. These innovative music choices are jarring at first, but they fit well with the show’s avant-garde, jukebox musical turned on its head vibe.
The artistic team worked very hard to bring Cher’s life story to the stage in a way befitting the star’s larger than life persona and The Cher Show is unlike any musical they have ever conceived. The team didn’t want to just make another Broadway show that felt like a straight-up linear musical biography. The book writer has even described working on the project as surreal, and said, “Surrealism was on my mind, and I spent a week with Cher talking about the concept and then finally I said let’s do an acid-trippy variety show approach.”
The structure of the musical is set up as if it were a live-taping of a variety show that just happens to be about Cher’s life and career. The icon herself is portrayed by three actresses representing her at different points in her life including the 1960s, 1970s, and then 1980s onward.
OH! And here’s a pro-tip for the straights: Stephanie J. Block plays the older, wiser, more current Cher and she is a delight to behold. Write her name down, S-t-e-p-h-a-n-i-e-J.-B-l-o-c-k you should never pass up an opportunity to see Stephanie J. Block on stage. NEVER. EVER.
Three Chers sounds sorta great, but one Cher doesn’t replace the next in sequential order. There are many moments throughout the show where all three Chers appear onstage together at the same time, and often give each other advice about Cher’s love life and career. And if that isn’t kooky enough, you’re in luck because there’s an entire army of Chers when necessary for a fashion show for instance, and the three main Chers sometimes sing duets and/or trios together and even go so far as to step into situations for each other when one Cher needs a better, stronger, more seasoned Cher to handle a particular situation.
Yeah. I’m not gonna lie, it’s pretty fucked up. The Cher Show zaniness doesn’t stop there. The faux variety show within a musical features a super random guest appearance from Lucielle Ball for no reason and a giant over the top production number devoted to the magic of Bob Mackie neither of which do a single thing to further the story. The device also cycles us through nearly all of Cher’s husbands and boyfriends by showing how they interacted with her busy career. Actors play Sonny Bono, Gregg Allman, David Geffen, and even Rob Camilletti her super young bagel baker boyfriend in the 80s.
This variety show concept is straight forward and very thorough in the beginning giving us a perhaps too complete look at the early Sonny and Cher Show days but it quickly crumbles leaving audiences with a brief and weird Wild West dance depicting Cher’s volatile marriage to Allman, and a short bit on a red carpet with Camilleti. Most moments in Cher’s life after Sonny feel fast and episodic, occurring at an increasing speed as the show continues making later details feel crammed in and glossed over. We barely hear about the children, triumphant acting milestones are reduced to Bob Mackie gowns and Academy Award speeches, and other moments rotate in and out so quickly we are left with whiplash. The most shocking example of this is the abrupt speech Cher gives at Sonny’s funeral that even though we know it’s coming appears disconnected and as if out of nowhere.
The musical is very messy, but the strangest and most obnoxious part of the TV show concept (other than three Chers in dialogue with themselves) is the periodic and random live filming of musical numbers that are simultaneously projected onto screens on stage. I for one hope whatever millennial dreamed up this live camera idea has been ground into hamburger meat and thrown into the sea.
Yeah, my dudes, I’m probably the only homo on Earth brave enough to tell you that at the moment The Cher Show is a bit of a shit show. It’s three and a half hours long! Why? Because they’ve gone and squeezed just about every possible detail of Cher’s life into the show. By the end it was as if I had actually lived all 72 of her years. The seats at the Oriental Theatre aren’t that comfortable and not even Cher can make three and a half hours feel like anything less than torture.
Listen, don’t get it twisted, I love Cher. Nobody loves Cher more than I do. I met her at a campaign rally for Hillary Clinton two years ago. She smells nice, looks incredible, is super charming and grabbed me by my shoulders and told me she loved my brown velvet jacket and it was so overwhelming for me I’ve been blind in my left eye ever since. AND HEY … I know this is PRIDE MONTH and I’m sure I’m gonna be on my knees for the next two weeks making up for it but I need everyone here to know an army of Chers is way too many fucking Chers, even in a Broadway musical about Cher.
The creative team is exploding with the greatest bunch of homosexuals ever assembled, so what are these fools thinking? First of all, how can it be that no one has convinced Cher to sign on as a producer? Girlfriend already has an Emmy for 2003’s Cher: The Farewell Tour, a Grammy for Best Dance Recording for 1998’s Believe, and an Oscar for the greatest movie of all time, 1987’s Moonstruck, the only thing standing in her way from having an EGOT is a Tony Award. And with The Cher Show scheduled for Broadway, it will be eligible for next year’s Tony Awards, but unless she signs on as a producer of The Cher Show, Cher won’t personally be eligible in any of the categories.
I mean, Jesus Christ, do I have to do everything?
Secondly, I cannot for the life of me figure out why these assholes thought a Greek Chorus of Chers hanging out, talking, giggling, and signing to each other sounded like a good idea. Have they been to the theatre lately? Most idiots today can’t even manage to turn their phones on silent for two hours, much less bother to understand a big complicated narration.
Cher does not require any wild, creative, or trippy storytelling techniques … HAVE YOU BEEN PAYING ATTENTION? We are talking about Cher! She’s perfect all by herself. Nearly all of America is baffled by the bullshit plot of This Is Us, so yeah, go ahead and have three Chers work together to tell me a story. If Obama was still in charge, I’d call him up and have these jerks vaporized.
Fortunately for everyone involved, my little note session is exactly what a pre-Broadway run of a musical is all about. All the Chers, boyfriends, husbands, songs, stray dance numbers, 9,000 Bob Mackie costumes, gorgeous sets and lighting, EVERYTHING gets packed in for us unknowing Midwesterners and then hopefully distilled down into something a Broadway audience will find watchable. When The Cher Show closes in Chicago on July 15 it has until November 1 of this year to try to get it right for the show’s first Broadway preview. Edits are, Cher Willing, happening as I speak and will continue on up until The Cher Show’s opening night, which has already been scheduled for December 3 at The Neil Simon Theatre in New York City.
Broadway musicals are always a wildly expensive and complicated experiment, but should you see this one? That is a very painful question for me to answer, but I’m gonna go with YES. Don’t get distracted by my gay panic attack, and if you are an incredibly bitchy queer person like myself without plans to see The Cher Show … SNAP OUT OF IT. This is a musical full of your favorite Cher songs, and how could you say no to that, especially in THIS … Our Month? So, figure it out, sell a kidney if you have to but get there before July 15. The Cher Show, complicated narration and seam busting plot aside, is a very good time, overflowing with potential, and even if it isn’t perfect right now … you need it.