If I could turn back time
If I could find a way
I'd take back those words that hurt you
And you'd stay
- Cher, If I Could Turn Back Time
Broadway in Chicago Presents World Premiere of The Cher Show
With book written by Rick Elice and directed by Jason Moore, The Cher Show is based on the premise that Cher is putting on a show about herself, and looking for the perfect way to go about it. She decides to throw out the original concept, and realizes she needs to return to her roots and share the story from the beginning. Taking us back in time is exactly what she does.
The part of Cher is split into three parts with three exceptionally talented actresses – Babe (Micaela Diamond), Lady (Teal Wicks), and Star (Stephanie J. Block, who leaves the audience in awe every time she sings, especially with her stunning rendition of Believe.), and the trio of women who collaborate to tell the story from her younger years before she even knew she could sing, to the days of the Sonny and Cher show, through to her Oscar winning performance in Moonstruck, and up until now.
From this writer’s view, Elice’s book is cheesy, but certainly in a manner that feels appropriate. As one would expect for a piece about the iconic figure that is Cher, the production feels larger than life with Costume Designer Bob Mackie’s gorgeous and striking ensembles, Lighting Designer Kevin Adam’s technicolor creations, and Christopher Gattelli’s impressive choreography. Throughout the production, the “Stage Management team” for this show that Cher is creating interrupt, and urge her to return to the original ideas and set list. This concept was a fun reminder of the present, and this writer would have liked to see the convention played out even more throughout.
So much of Cher’s life in her early years was dictated by men that made all the big decisions, and this story is meant to celebrate her journey that defies those obstacles. Every time the “present Cher” rejects the Stage Manager’s request, she just offers another reminder of the powerful woman she has become.
The production features a score of Cher’s music, and while many of the songs are presented as if Cher or one of the performers is putting on a show in venues such as Las Vegas or on the Sonny and Cher Show, there are also moments that the music is creatively weaved into the storytelling.
One such moment is the Shoop Shoop Song, which appears in Act One in the midst of the early days of her romance with Sonny Bono (played by Jarrod Spector who masterfully portrays the complexities of the heartbreaking marriage). Cher and her best friends gossip about the possibility of whether or not Sonny is in love with her, and then break into the song. The piece is fun, light-hearted, and full of the hope that young Cher, or Babe, has for her life with this man.
Utilizing three actresses for the title character not only aids in the storytelling of Cher’s life, but also offers opportunities for the women to harmonize on some of the hits. (This is) A Song for the Lonely closes Act One when Cher, or Lady, decides to leave Sonny and remove herself from his hold on her career. Before leaving the stage, he warns her that if she follows through, she will lose everything and everyone. As she stands there scared and alone, the other two actresses join her on stage to sing the heart-wrenching yet hopeful number, complete with three vibratos that ring throughout the theater. Throughout the production, Babe or Lady will express doubt or fear over the next step in the journey, and Star, the elder Cher, offers the comfort that they will in fact be okay – because she is standing there as proof. (This is) A Song for the Lonely emphasized that element of the story, sending the audience into a roar of applause.
The ballads are sensational, but the upbeat numbers offer exciting opportunities to show off Gattelli’s striking work. Dark Lady appears in Act Two when Sonny and her second husband, Gregg Allman (Matthew Hydzik) face off with a duet. As the two powerhouse vocalists sing it out, a woman dressed in black lace enters the stage and with her commanding stage presence, dances amongst a group of male dancers. Gattelli utilizes lifts and couples-choreography that add stunning life to this number that is entirely about power.
Striking design and jaw-dropping vocalists make The Cher Show a night to remember, and a blast from start to finish. From looking around at the audience dancing at their seats by the end of curtain call, this writer thinks that she may not be alone in her opinion.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Note: An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago
Playing through July 15, 2018
Tuesdays at 7:30pm
Wednesdays at 7:30pm
Thursdays at 7:30pm
Fridays at 7:30pm
Saturdays at 8:00pm
Sundays at 2:00pm and 7:30pm
The Oriental Theatre
24 W Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60601
Babe…. Micaela Diamond
Lady… Teal Wicks
Star… Stephanie J. Block
Sonny Bono… Jarrod Spector
Georgia Holt… Emily Skinner
Bob Mackie/Robert Altman/Artie… Michael Berresse
Gregg Allman/John Southall… Matthew Hydzik
Rob Camiletti/Lee… Michael Campayno
Ensemble… Marija Juliette Abney, Carleigh Bettiol, Taurean Everett, Michael Fatica, Ashley Blair Fitzgerald, Michael Graceffa, Blaine Alden Krauss, Sam Lips, Allie Meixner, Tiana Okoye, Angel Reda, Chrstipher Vo, ALÉNA WATTERS, Charlie Williams
Book…. Rick Elice
Director… Jason Moore
Choreographer…. Christopher Gattelli
Music Supervision, Orchestrations, and Arrangements… Daryl Waters
Scenic Design… Christine Jones and Brett J. Banakis
Costume Design… Bob Mackie
Lighting Design…. Kevin Adams
Sound Design… Cookie Jordan
Music Director… Andrew Resnick
About the Author:
Lauren Katz is a freelance director and dramaturge, and new to the Chicago Theatre Scene. She recently moved from Washington DC, where she worked with Mosaic Theater Company of DC in Company Management, as well as directed around town with various theaters.
Click here to read more Picture this Post stories by Lauren Katz.