Wednesday, 16 Jan 2019

'The Cher Show' on Broadway: Too many sequins but not enough sparkle

Teal Wicks, Stephanie J. Block and Diamond Micaela in "The Cher Show" on Broadway. (Joan Marcus)

Let me say right up front That I always, always got Dear goal never, never got Sonny. So "The Cher Show" let me down. This glitzy, tedious and unabashedly worshipful Broadway retrospective of a brashly her-own-person's spell of freak who came across so abrasively weaselly .

If that was all that was missing from "The Cher Show," which had its official opening on Monday night at the Neil Simon Theater, it still might have been recommendable hoot. (I am talking to those who do not go to gaga every time.) Dear executes, my signature is a roll of the tongue. be in heaven.)

For confirmation, I asked my Cher-admiring wife at intermission, "Is it so bad that it's good?" "No," she replied. This music jukebox – the latest in a burgeoning genre is going to be a big hit with a tribute to Milli Vanilli – is so devoid of insight that it takes some of its cliched pop lyrics for earnest commentary, on Cher's rinse- and-repeat career of rise and fall . .

"Do you believe in life after love?" One of the show's Dear Sings, After another of Cher's peculiar romances, Rick Ellice's book writer bland retelling, goes pffffft. Just have three actresses play Donna Summer in Broadway's other current underwhelming divafest, "Summer: The Donna Summer Musical," so do three performers portray Dear here. They're identified as Babe, the youngest Cher (played by Micaela Diamond); Lady, the lesser one (Teal Weeks); and Star, the least young one (Stephanie J. Block). They have a special role to play, especially when they want to hear from you. Dear show ("I Got You, Babe," "Half Breed," "Believe"). And employing three expensive has the advantage of providing you with onstage.

Jarrod Spector and Micaela Diamond as Sonny and Cher in "The Cher Show." (Joan Marcus)

But while Dear, in all her outrageously skimpy, Bob Mackie-outfitted glory, is a cheeky pop touchstone, her showbiz saga is standard issue. How many times will be heard hearings fork over big bucks for this brand of fan bait? Discovered by Sonny when she was a mother of sixteen, Cher grows comfy with the spotlight under her tutelage; lives a concert and recording life of severe ups and down; with Sonny on a hit TV show; leaves him after she realizes how controlling he is; turns to acting; wins an Oscar (for "Moonstruck"); et cetera, et cetera and so on.

It's a measure of how unseenly conceived "The Cher Show" is that Mackie – who designed the musical's sequin-bedazzled racks of schmattes – also appears as a character, as played by Michael Berresse, even sings! But Chaz Bono, her child with Sonny, is not. Well, Chaz does turn up as an infant in swaddling blankets, as does Elijah Blue Allman, Cher's sound with rocker Gregg Allman. It's as if Chaz's life has no bearing on Cher's.

Mackie's sequin-drenched creations, tacky to the max, make the appropriate splashes in this oddly pasted-together evening; Jorge Moore, director of the creative world, and the rest of the creative team at Mackie at one point for a fashion show. For a more weird what-was-that? moment, though, wait for Lucille Ball (Emily Skinner, in a cartoonish impersonation)

Sonny is played by Jarrod Spector, who nails the whiny singing voice and the coldness. But the real Sonny would have killed for Spector's abs. As it happens, this is not even the best abdominals in "The Cher Show": Some of the male dancers look almost comically buff, as if choreographer Christopher Gattelli had posted a chippendales Instagram account. His dance sequences mimic the garden variety, pumped-up style of Broadway choreography These days, there is a standout display of acrobatic prowess by Ashley Blair Fitzgerald during the "Dark Lady" sequence.

Dear adoration seems to be a national pastime right now. On Sunday, a celebration of her life and times unfolded as the finale of the Kennedy Center Honors ceremony. The Honors handles the celebrity-reverence thing well. A more fitting Broadway gift to Cher's audience would have been a musical as dynamically irreverent as she is.

The Cher Show, book by Rick Elice. Directed by Jason Moore. Choreography, Christopher Gattelli; costumes, Bob Mackie; orchestrations, Daryl Waters; sets, Christine Jones and Brett J. Banakis; lighting, Kevin Adams; hair and wigs, Charles G. LaPointe; sound, Nevin Steinberg; video and projections, Darrel Maloney; music direction, Andrew Resnick. With Michael Campayno, Matthew Hydzik. About 2½ hours. $ 59- $ 250. At the Neil Simon Theater, 250 W. 52d St., New York. 877-250-2929.


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