The Cher Show – Royal & Derngate, Northampton

Reviewer: James Garrington

Book: Rick Elice

Director: Arlene Phillips

The hits just keep on coming in this cracking piece of entertainment at the Royal and Derngate.

Using multiple actors to portray a character through different periods in their lives is nothing new. Here this device has been taken a step further though, as Rick Elice’s well-conceived script has them on stage at the same time, discussing events and offering each other advice. It’s a concept that works well and adds an extra dimension to this story of Cher’s life. The Cher Show gives us a fine trio playing the role of Cher, each appropriate for the period and each in fine voice – with some very creditable imitations of Cher’s distinctive speaking and iconic singing style too.

Spanning the diva’s iconic career across six decades we have Millie O’Connell as Babe, Danielle Steers as Lady and Debbie Kurup as Star. It’s a life full of turmoil, of rags to riches, back to rags and back to riches again. Falling in and out of love, trust and betrayal, and each of the three brings their own quality to the events of their time.

O’Connell tackles Cher’s early years well, portraying a child who dreams of being a performer through naïve teenage years to finding herself married, and with a child, too young. This period wouldn’t be complete without Sonny Bono, Cher’s musical partner and husband, and Lucas Rush plays the role of the older, manipulative character well. Though few may remember Cher’s speaking voice from that period, many people will be familiar with the music and O’Connell and Rush’s version of I Got You Babe will bring back many memories.

Steers picks up the narrative and takes us through the period of Cher’s life where she is working almost non-stop, unable to see her family and struggling with her relationship with her husband. It’s a bit of an emotional roller-coaster, as they bounce back and forth between argument and smiling for the audience and Steers and Rush negotiate it well. On to Kurup, and once again her rendition is spot-on – close your eyes and listening to Kurup sing you could be in the presence of the great diva herself. Throughout we have the constant calming presence of Cher’s mother Georgia, played with a touch of homespun philosophy and a nice, if slightly underused, singing voice by Tori Scott.

Although it would be well worth seeing for the music alone, this is more than just a Cher tribute act. The story here is important too, with the music being used where appropriate – and unlike some juke-box musicals, Elice’s script doesn’t feel in the least bit contrived to make it fit around the songs.

The simple but effective set by Tom Rogers coupled with Arlene Phillips’ direction allows things to keep moving along nicely as the scenes flow from one to another. Oti Mabuse’s choreography is slick and sharply delivered by the hard-working ensemble. However, the preponderance of black in the costume design by Gabriella Slade means that it doesn’t always come across with the degree of camp glitz that you would expect from a Cher show. That said, it’s a great piece of high-energy, non-stop entertainment packed full of popular songs with an excellent cast.

Of course, it all ends happily too, with the audience getting to have a sing-along to some of the hits at the end, and no doubt leaving the theatre with an earworm or two. Just what the doctor ordered for a post-Christmas boost.

Runs Until 14 January 2023 and on tour

The Reviews Hub Score

Cracking entertainment.

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The Reviews Hub - Central

The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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