WHAT “The Cher Show”
WHERE Neil Simon Theatre, 250 W. 52nd St.
INFO Tickets, from $59 at ticketmaster.com, 877-250-2929
BOTTOM LINE A boisterous and appealing bio-musical about the iconic entertainer.
"Just stand there and look pretty, OK?" a writer suggests to his star. "It's all about the clothes anyway."
To be sure, "The Cher Show," the boisterous and appealing new musical at the Neil Simon Theatre, gives significant stage time to the legendary, over-the-top costumes that made Cher, well, Cher. But there's more to it than the endless display of sequined and feathered ensembles by Cher’s lifelong designer, Bob Mackie.
Part biography, part concert, the show casts three actresses in the role of the superstar, a choice that works far better in this production than in the soon-to-close Donna Summer musical. Stephanie J. Block is in command as the senior Cher, called Star, with an intelligent, nuanced performance that captures the essence of the singer. And, oh, can she sing. As can her co-stars — Teal Wicks as Lady, the middle "bad girl" Cher, and Micaela Diamond, the youngest, known as Babe.
Cher (the real one) is one of the producers, and she's clearly keeping a close eye on the production (she's been twice that we know of), interviews suggesting she's working with writer Rick Elice and director Jason Moore to shape — or is it control? — the telling of this roller coaster of a life.
Cramming it all in to two and a half hours results in lapses, but much of the story is there — the conflicted relationship with her mother (Emily Skinner), the marriage to Sonny Bono (Jarrod Spector), the brutal divorce that ends the hugely popular "Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour," the unhealthy marriage to Gregg Allman (Matthew Hydzik), the movie career resulting in an Oscar for "Moonstruck" (and, yes, that iconic sheer black gown, with Michael Berresse portraying the flamboyant Mackie), those humiliating infomercials, the comeback concert tours, including the current "Here We Go Again."
Throughout, the three Chers are a compelling presence, a group of BFFs who converse in sisterly style as they power through her hits. For those who grew up devoted to Sonny and Cher, it's a nostalgic way to "Turn Back Time," the obvious opening number. Other musical highlights include a spirited "The Beat Goes On," the dance smash "Believe," the dramatic "Dark Lady," with a heart-stopping Apache dance by choreographer Christopher Gattelli, and, it goes without saying, a touching rendition of the Sonny and Cher anthem, "I Got You Babe."
More than anything, the show presents a message of empowerment, as we watch Cher fight for the right to control her career — and her life. "You haven't seen the last of me," Star sings at the end. She's got that right.