MusicalReviewSouth East

The Cher Show – Orchard Theatre, Dartford

Reviewer: Dan English

Book: Rick Elice

Director: Arlene Phillips

Pop icon Cher gets the jukebox musical treatment in this stage musical, The Cher Show, directed by Arlene Phillips, which turns back time on her long career in the music business.

The musical, penned by one of the Jersey Boys writers Rick Elice, which has been overhauled since its Broadway opening in 2018, chronicles Cher’s meteoric rise to the top, and her long career is explored through three very different eras with the musician herself captured by three unique performaners in this show which is a must for all Cher fans. This is a reworked version from the 2018 original, including a change to the running order of some of Cher’s hits which help get the show off on the right foot. That said, the decision to work chronologically through Cher’s life while conversely not always following a chronological set list does, on occasion, miss a beat.

Mille O’Connell, as the youngest iteration of Cher, Babe, is strong in portraying the naivety of the star during her formative years. O’Connell captures the awkwardness of the star well as she struggles to grapple with independence, fame and love, and there is an endearing nature to her delivery. O’Connell, like the two other Chers, is sensational when singing her iconic hits, especially during a superb end to Act One.

Danielle Steers hits the ground running as the middle part of Cher’s career, labelled Lady. Steers straddles the innocence of Cher’s younger self while also attempting to strike out on her own. Steers’ Cher is flamboyant and confident, yet also brutally tender as her marriage with Sonny collapses. This is arguably the toughest of the three roles as the character shifts so wildly across a few moments, yet it is a challenge to which Steers rises.

Debbie Kurup then stars as the current version of Cher. Kurup’s fiercely powerful performance delivers an assured and empowered version of the star. Kurup is commanding in this portrayal and looks at ease in this demanding role.

Lucas Rush plays ex-husband Sonny, who is utterly charming until fame and greed renders him charmless. Rush works well to create a polarising character who ultimately serves as the eventual catalyst for Cher leaving her bitterly unequal partnership to strike out on her own. The character is not helped by a script which, despite plodding at times, never really exposes the gradual shift in Sonny’s character, who is lovely until suddenly he is not, which is a little jarring.

Oti Mabusi’s choreography is striking and relies on an incredibly hard working ensemble to deliver her work with relative ease. This is a visually stunning production which would not look out of place on the West End, and Mabusi’s choreography works well to help chronicle the development of Cher’s career from the swinging sixties to the synth pop of the nineties.

Tom Rogers’ set hits the glamorous vibe which Cher has well, and is immediately striking with both wings of the stage flanked with dozens of the singer’s iconic hairstyles rising to the stage ceiling.

Dazzling costumes, created by Gabriella Slade, brilliantly capture Cher’s iconic style, and it is the design of the production, as well as the choreography and music which does disguise some of the awkward dialogue. No expense appears to have been spared on this costume design and it is for the production’s benefit.

This is a fresh take on the jukebox style musical and is commendable for attempting to break the mould. The heart of this performance focuses upon the development not just of Cher’s career but of her character as well in the face of countless adversities. Cher’s story is one of reinvention and its ironic then that this show also, with some success, reinvents the jukebox musical genre. Despite some wobbly moments, this show breathes new life into Cher’s work and, just like the artist, could very well stand the test of time.

Runs until Saturday 24th September then continues to tour

The Reviews Hub Score

A pop-filled spectacle.

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