The new UK tour of the biographical Cher musical kicks off in Leicester.
Performed this week at our very own Curve, it tells the story of Cher’s life, using the pop icon’s musical history to underscore her biggest milestones and lowest ebbs. Written by Jersey Boys scribe, Rick Elise, the structure is comparable to the Four Seasons megahit, even opening with a tease of the song that will become the finale.
The comparisons don’t end there - Jersey Boys has four narrators, this show has three – the twist? They’re all Cher. Our three leads represent different ages of the great diva: Babe (Millie O’Connell), Lady (Danielle Steers) and Star (Debbie Kurup).
The progression between these ages can feel a little rushed (the actors’ ages are not that far apart, and it only takes 11 years of Cher’s life to transition between the three), especially when the actor playing Sonny Bono (Lucas Rush) doesn’t change. However, the brilliance of this device is that Cher always has someone to talk to – each Cher is counselled by her two counterparts throughout the story, guiding her – and us – through each life and career choice.
The performances of the three leads are superb. Vocally terrific, of course – if you’re playing Cher, this is a baseline requirement – but the acting is brilliant too. Each takes a different one of Cher’s mannerisms and builds their character’s physicality around it. Babe is anxious, clapping her hands as a nervous tic. Lady has the signature hair toss, and Star oozes the confidence of a showbiz veteran. Each of them unique. All of them Cher.
The story itself does lean toward struggle over triumph – in the first half, we see Babe and Sonny have their initial success with “I Got You Babe” and then immediately jump to two years later when they’re broke again. Lady and Star both experience heartache and set back but manage to keep moving forward. Admittedly, there wouldn’t be much drama to be found in the happier times, but it does infuse the show with a slight melancholy – the price of superstardom is high, and Cher had to pay it.
This is perhaps emphasised by the set design – a collection of Cher’s black and white wigs, and wardrobe rails filled with grey garment bags, each containing one of Cher’s iconic looks. Few people would think that a grey stage would suit Cher’s glamour, but it works. It allows the lighting to introduce decade-appropriate colour, and means the stage doesn’t pull focus from our hero (until the full glitz of the finale).
The same goes for Mabuse’s choreography; the dancing is exceptional, though cleverly used to support the lead rather than pull focus. The lighting does this too – in Star’s final conversation with Sonny, she’s bathed in warm light, while he’s in ghostly white.
In all aspects, everything around Cher is used to keep the spotlight on her.
Ultimately, this is a nostalgia act, unlikely to win Cher many new fans, but there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a celebration of an icon. It “turns back time” and offers a peek behind the curtain at one of show business’s most enduring and reinventive stars. The title might seem a bit on the nose, but it’s actually perfect: This is The Cher Show.
★ ★ ★ ★
A thoroughly enjoyable show, that’ll have you up and dancing by the end. The Cher Show is at Curve, until April 23, before heading out on a tour of the UK and Ireland.
Written by Tom Young
Tom is a feature writer for Niche Magazine and the Event Co-Ordinator for Cross Productions. He has a degree in Creative Writing and over a decade of experience working in comedy and theatre as the founder of improv group, The Same Faces. He writes about what's on, interesting people, and local events.