Tuesday 15th November 2022 at York Grand Theatre and Opera House.
The best thing about The Cher Show, aside from the stellar talent at the heart of it, is that it does exactly what it should do: it reminds us all, loud and clear, what an absolute diamond Cher is. Not just for her big heart, her goofy wit, her unique talents or even her frankly superb catalogue of hits and gems, but also for the origins of that defining devil-may-care defiance and her phoenix-like resilience.
The show itself takes a bit of a surprising shape, straying from the usual biographical musicals which take us neatly from childhood to adulthood in favour of giving us three Chers representing different stages of her life who interact throughout. The trio reflect on the past, advise about the future, make quips at the expense of their younger/older selves and sing beautiful harmonies along the way. It’s an interesting approach which allows for a lot of Cher’s personality to shine through, but it also provides a clever springboard into snatches of songs which are well placed for each stage of the story being told (musical arrangements: Rich Morris).
It’s difficult to imagine three actresses imitating Cher’s distinctive speech patterns and intonations, but here we see an uncanny ability to land lines pretty consistently in Cher style and sound. As for the vocals? Each powerful in their own way, each individual enough to avoid any prolonged imitation of a unique vocalist, and each capable of some fantastic belting – what’s not to love?
Millie O’Connell is the very young Cher (“Babe”), taking us from adorable kid to adorable infatuated teen. Rick Elice’s book takes care to make sure we recognise Cher’s struggles in her youth and we are reminded of the wounded origins of her mettle, but O’Connell balances this well with a Cher who is always a little quirky and always ready with an unexpected comic declaration – perfectly on brand for Cher if you follow the star on any social media platforms.
Danielle Steers takes the reins as “Lady” when Cher arrives at married life, success and motherhood even as showbiz whirls at the epicentre of her life. Steers not only nails Cher’s hurt and frustrations, she also sings with the kind of force and emotion that makes you stare at your pal with wide-eyed “are you hearing this?” awe.
Debbie Kurup is the more mature Cher, “Star”, who arrives fully fledged as the self-assured, unstoppable force we’ve come to know and love. Kurup captures the disappointments and doubts of romantic entanglements but she is perhaps the most spot on when it comes to Cher’s voice and comic timing in particular – the sheer chutzpah Kurup exudes is hugely entertaining to watch. And alongside our Chers, we are treated to Tori Scott’s very funny and very charismatic mama Georgia and Guy Woolf’s layered take on Sonny as loving and mean and sweet and ruthless all at once.
When it comes to the production itself, Arlene Phillips’ direction sees a lot of bustle and activity and a sultry ensemble deliver Oti Mabuse’s choreography with plenty of energy. But in some ways, the show is surprisingly understated considering its muse – more fitting when we are exploring her youthful days and setbacks, but not so much later on. Spectacle often arrives via Ben Cracknell’s impactful lighting designs and Gabriella Slade’s costume designs, which brilliantly capture iconic looks but also the iconic fearlessness of Cher as performer. The final scenes certainly deliver big on the spectacle we associate with Cher as we are given a fantastic mega mix to send us merrily on our way.
The Cher Show traces the origins, highest heights and lowest lows of an icon with great affection and plenty of humour – and with leads like this owning their stage, it is not one to miss. Whether you’re a minor or major fan, you’ll leave with a renewed sense of appreciation for Cher and her music – and whether it’s The Shoop Shoop Song, Believe, Heart of Stone, Strong Enough, I Found Someone or If I Could Turn Back Time, I guarantee you’ll be humming or listening in 3, 2, 1…
The Cher Show plays York Grand Theatre and Opera House until November 19th 2022 – you can find tickets here. The show then continues to tour until March 18th 2023 and you can find more information and tickets here.