“The Cher Show” At Neil Simon Theatre, Saturday, November 24th, 2018, Reviewed
Before playwright Rick Elice’s , (of “Jersey Boys” fame and “The Addams Family” infamy, “The Cher Show”) opens to thunderous applause, let’s be clear. It is not “Jersey Boys” -it is a jukebox musical that flounders about without making its point for two hours or so, while three incarnations of Cher(ilyn Sarkisian) switch places interchangeably and Bob Mack costumes, and some singing and dancing sparkle like the Vegas show she was and is and has been for decades. “The Cher Show” is a missed opportunity, you can just feel it getting close, just sense it nearing that place where “Jersey Boys and “Beautiful” exist, but it is so wrong headed it doesn’t reach there.
Put it this way, the first act takes you from 1963- 1974, the second act takes you from 1974 -2018… what does that mean? It means it isn’t a biography. Next, the only character who stands out is Sonny Bono -and that is because Jarrod Spector (Spect-acular as Barry Mann in “Beautiful” -his solo version of “Walking In The Rain” is a show highlight) is given the opportunity to flesh out his role, the three Chers get in each other’s way. Which one is better? Stephanie J. Block plays the elder “Star,” Teal Wicks played the middle years “Lady” and, Micaela Diamond the sixteen year old “Babe”. Of course, if they didn’t make the Chers interchangeable, there would have only been Babe since the heart of the action was “The Sonny And Cher Show”. None of these talented actors give any performance worth mentioning. Admittedly, I had a nose bleed seat, but I couldn’t see the slightest difference between Chers.
The story opens with Sonny grooming and seducing the sixteen year old Cher, working her tail off, going bankrupt, getting the TV show, working her seven days a week and keeping 100% of the business for himself, then getting dumped as Cher and baby Chastity went solo. “The Cher Show” bombed, her marriage to Greg Allman bombed, but her Broadway debut was a smash and so was her acting. After the acting fizzled, you went on one final tour after another. And that’s the story.
There is no insight here, nothing that makes you think you know her or her career better. Cher reminds me of the actress in Tom Stoppard’s “The Hard Problem” -it’s like all the glue of her story has been surgically removed and what remains are a great many things that don’t matter as such.
The best moments are all musical, as they should be. The “I’ve Got You, Babe” is top class, a perfect rendition of the song. The “Just Like Jesse James” from a 1989 was a surprise to me as it makes sense of her relationship with Greg, and the “The Beat Goes On” is a fun fan rush. For acting, or for the book as a book, the story of her third relationship, with a baker from the Bronx, was really very moving and sad. Cher’s mother, still kicking at 92 years of age, is played much younger by Emily Skitter, sweet but not sticky. Director Jason Moore makes a colorful, gay friendly musical that is still very bland. It isn’t me. Why should the competition not be “Company” or “West Side Story”. Why shouldn’t it be meant to stand up to the toughest competition? Put it all together and it just isn’t all together and the worst of all was the terrible idea of three Chers on stage simultaneously, this is not good theatre.
Note: Rick Elice is the late, great Roger Rees’ husband. Condolences on his loss.