2022 is seeing the debut of lots of new musicals in the UK, including ‘The Osmonds’, ‘Newsies’ and ‘The Cher Show’. The life of musical icon Cher was turned into a stage musical in 2018 and headed to Broadway, receiving acclaimed reviews and a Tony Award win for Stephanie J. Block. Four years later the show has finally made its way across the Atlantic and it is currently touring the UK, with direction by creative mastermind Arlene Phillips and choreography by Strictly Come Dancing’s Oti Mabuse. The Cher Show debuted at the Leicester Curve in 2022 and after two months on the road, the production made it to Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre this week.
The Marlowe team held a press night yesterday evening and I fortunately received an invitation. To say I was excited is a complete understatement, I remember hearing Cher’s distinctive low voice on an eighties compilation CD when I was young and being amazed by her sound. With a career spanning nearly six decades, she is the perfect artist to base a jukebox musical on and I could not wait to see how the creative team would approach Cher’s monumental journey.
Unlike other musicals where one performer plays the lead for the entire show, The Cher Show hosts three actresses as the legendary singer, each focusing on a unique period of her life. With the names Babe, Lady and Star, these snapshots of Cher each take on the narrator mantle for a proportion of the show, imitating her musical style, fashion sense and public personality during their given era. Millie O’Connell, Danielle Steers and Debbie Kurup play these roles in the UK tour, reuniting at multiple points throughout the show as the Chers reflect on their life thus far. Together they perform an electric finale, featuring memorable costumes, disco tracks and killer dance moves. For the Canterbury leg of the tour, Babe is played by Jasmine Jules Andrews and last night we saw Ingrid Olivia in the role of Lady.
Now there are many songs in Cher’s back catalogue that could have been used in the production, but I was pleased to see the setlist include songs from every section of her musical career. The production covers Cher’s rise to fame chronologically, but the songs are not performed in the same order as their release; they have been carefully interwoven into the plot, appearing at appropriate times in Cher’s story.
‘Turn Back Time’ forms the skeleton of the show, as the production opens to Cher getting ready to perform a concert later in life. This and ‘Believe’ took on a whole new meaning for me in the musical, thanks to the powerful acting skills of Jasmine, Ingrid and Debbie as they reflect on a life of stardom. Each of the Cher’s did such a stellar job recreating the singer’s unique vocal style, something that cannot be easy to replicate. There are over 30 songs in the show, helping to create over two hours of entertainment for audiences. ‘A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes’ from Disney’s Cinderella even makes an appearance: a song that is responsible for Cher’s desire to be a star. The Disney fan in me was jumping for joy when I heard this!
Cher is known for her memorable outfits, many of which were fashion legend Bob Mackie’s designs: a figure who is also dramatised in the show. Gabriella Slade’s creations for the stage show did not disappoint, mimicking the musical superstar’s incredible sense of style. As fans would expect, there were lots of glittery pieces, daring cut out numbers and dazzling leotards. When the Chers were not the focus of the storyline, they wore these incredible black sparkly leotards and knee high boots, blending into the sets with a hint of sparkle.
Debbie Kurup wore some absolutely incredible outfits in act two. For ‘Just Like Jesse James’ she was in a light purple and mint green Western-themed outfit which was so different to any of the other costumes. This costume was a classic example of how Cher has always managed to remain a fashion icon and evolve with the times.
The creative team cleverly used props to help illustrate the timeline of the show to audiences, without taking audience attention away from the sets, costumes and performers. Numbers representing years in Cher’s life were attached to items on stage such as mirrors, a Vegas-inspired sign and a bed. I haven’t seen this done before in the theatre, but I really appreciated being able to keep up with where we were in Cher’s journey.
As you can probably tell from my many positive words, I absolutely adored The Cher Show. The three leads were absolutely phenomenal from the moment the curtain was raised and they were supported by an ultra-talented company. The Marlowe Theatre turned into a dance party during the finale, with the audience singing along to a medley of Cher’s greatest hits. The energy in the auditorium was indescribable, as we took part in the ultimate singalong.
If you are a fan of Cher, I cannot recommend the musical enough. You are bound to learn things about her life that you were not aware of, throughout almost six decades in the public eye. It is playing in Canterbury until Sunday and you can purchase tickets on the theatre’s website. I am very grateful for the opportunity to see such an epic production in action.
Thanks for reading my blog today.
Love Kat xxxx
*Our tickets and programme for The Cher Show were gifted in exchange for a review of the performance.