When dedicating a musical to Cher, having one Cher simply isn’t enough. So instead we get three. Babe (Millie O’Connell) is the playful, young Cher; Lady (Danielle Steers) is a more confident and independent Cher; and Star (Debbie Kurup) is the eldest and wisest Cher. The Cher Show sets itself apart from other biopic, jukebox musicals by having three versions of the same character on stage at the same time.
The three performers capture Cher’s distinctive accent and mannerisms perfectly, particularly O’Connell. It’s a joy to hear Steers sing: her soulful voice is a perfect fit for Lady, and Kurup’s stage presence is unforgettable. The different versions of Cher interact with each other throughout the show, delving into memorable events of their past and discussing consequences of their actions. There are also meta moments where they speak directly to the audience. This unique approach proves highly effective, as the three leading ladies work together to showcase different ages and emotional phases in Cher’s life.
Most people know Cher as a global icon, but not many people know the difficulty she’s endured throughout her life. From her turbulent upbringing and abusive relationships to financial ruin, she’s experienced many hardships.
The first act particularly focused on the breakup of her marriage with Sonny Bono (Lucas Rush). It was interesting to see the contrast between Sonny and Babe’s endearing performance of ‘I Got You Babe’ with Sonny and Lady’s argumentative number ‘Living in a House Divided’. This highlights Cher’s growth and newfound independence as she gets older and wiser. Additionally, in the second act the audience are introduced to her second husband, Gregg Allman and later boyfriend, Rob Camilletti. Both characters are excellently played by Sam Ferriday.
The three Chers are at their best when they sing together. The act one finale, ‘Song for the Lonely’, is exquisite. Despite technical difficulties on the night forcing them to restart the song, the audience were clearly appreciative they could hear it in full, applauding for several minutes afterwards.
Moreover, the actresses’ voices seamlessly blend in ‘Bang Bang’. What elevates this number even further is the magnetic and mesmerizing dancing. Choreographed by Oti Mabuse and directed by Arlene Phillips, the dance sequences are a standout feature of the show. The ensemble push large mirrors across the stage creating illusions and reflecting the sparkles of the costumes.
Designed by Gabriella Slade and inspired by Bob Mackie, the costumes are stunning. The glitzy and glamorous two-pieces pay a great homage to Cher’s impeccable fashion over the years. Midway through the first act, we get to meet Bob Mackie (Jake Mitchell) during an energetic number where he dresses Lady for The Sonny and Cher Show.
The stage is framed with grey garment bags and various wigs, replicating Cher’s most iconic hairstyles. Unfortunately, it feels too plain. The set may be underwhelming but the scenery is fantastic. The props cleverly display the years on them, for example, a vardo with 1975 incorporated into the design.
While The Cher Show is enjoyable as a whole, the pace at times feels a bit slow. Additionally, snippets of the most popular Cher songs were constantly reprised, so when sung in full they lost their impact.
In two and a half hours, you learn so much about this amazing woman’s life. For the encore, the audience are encouraged to stand up and join in, which just adds to the fun. The Cher Show showcases the iconic career of a true global icon in the best way. Despite the emotional rollercoaster, you leave the show feeling uplifted. As Cher says, “Well what diva doesn’t have her ups and downs?”
Book by: Rick Elice
Directed by: Arlene Phillips
Choreography by: Oti Mabuse
Costume design by: Gabriella Slade
Set design by: Tom Rogers
Musical supervision, orchastraions and arrangements by: Rich Morris
Lighting design by: Ben Cracknell
Sound design by: Dan Samson
Musical diretion by: Danny Belton
The Cher Show plays at New Wimbledon Theatre until 4 February 2023. It then continues its UK tour until 11 March 2023. Full dates and further information can be found here.