Believe it or not, there are people who go to The Cher Show and don't know much of anything about the titular Goddess Warrior. I found this out when the woman sitting next to me wondered rather loudly, "Who the hell is Cherilyn Sarkisian?" (She also seemed surprised that it wasn't a drag show.) Now, don't get me wrong. I learned a few things about one of my favorite artists before the night was over: her abstinence from drugs and alcohol in the 60s and 70s is both admirable and surprising - she was America's first hippie after all, and I did not know she has severe dyslexia and both a paralyzing fear of failure and an endearing confidence. It's always nice to come away from a show a little smarter than when you arrived at the theater. And while this show hasn't really changed my opinion of bio-musicals, I can happily report that I had a fantastic night and got much more than my money's worth.
Ashley Blair Fitzgerald and the Men
Jason Moore's direction, like his subject, is slick, inventive and has that glitzy-glam thing down pat. Enter Christopher Gattelli, who has really brought his A game here. The "concert/video" choreography is so energetic I think I got a contact high from the pheromones emanating from the cast. Calling it athletic and polished doesn't quite do it justice. The final sequence - the Farewell Tour montage I'll call it (there is no song list) was so incredible I still haven't quite come down from it. That said, there are two showpiece numbers that Mr. Gattelli will want to recreate when they put together a musical celebrating his life's work (and I'm sure they will). Those numbers are the ultra sensual and dangerous "Dark Lady" (featuring the remarkable Ashley Blair Fitzgerald and the male ensemble) and thrilling Fosse-esque sexiness of "The Beat Goes On." Brilliant, both.
|Michael Berresse as Bob Mackie|
|The Principal Cast of The Cher Show|
|"I Got You Babe"|
Jarrod Spector as Sonny Bono and Micaela Diamond as Babe
And what magnificent presences they are. Audiences will flock to this show so long as the ladies playing the title character (and yes, I mean character) offer a ferocity that mirrors their perception of the icon, and a sensitivity to the trials of their beloved as well. Yes, they can sing the role, and yes they do amazing interpretation. But, thankfully, they never approach camp - if you are looking for a drag show, this won't be your cup of tea. That said, you get much more than impersonation, too. Because of the conceit of the show, we don't just see a linear birth to present day pageant of a life lived. These actresses get to portray that oft thought of fantasy "If only I knew then what I know now" or "this is what I'd tell my younger self..." Micaela Diamond (in a glorious Broadway debut) nails the innocence, impetuousness and wonder of love and youthful ignorance, while Teal Wicks brings a lot of gravitas to one of the most difficult periods of Cher's life - the rise and fall of Sonny and Cher. Though much of her time is spent being down, angry and hurting, Wicks makes you feel for, and pull for, our heroine.
(Left to Right) Jarrod Spector as Sonny Bono, Teal Wicks as Lady, and
Stephanie J. Block as Star
The end of the show is thrilling montage of all of Cher's farewell tours. The show doesn't shy away from the hilarity of that, even going so far as to project the names and years of each "final" farewell. And yet, just before the final blackout, when Cher intones, "You haven't seen the last of me," it isn't a laugh it gets, it is a cheer. After all, you don't laugh at the battle cry of the Goddess Warrior.
(Photos by Joan Marcus, Jeff Kyler)