The Cher Show tells the life story of the music legend and icon, Cher. Premiering on Broadway in 2018 the production closed in August 2019 but did pick up a few Tony Awards for Best Leading Actress (Stephanie J Block) and Best Costume Design (Bob Mackie). A new production was announced to tour the UK with direction from Arlene Phillips and Choreography by Oti Mabuse starring West End stars Debbie Kurup, Danielle Steers and Millie O’Connell. Playing at the New Victoria theater in Woking this week, the show is pretty much midway through its run.
Millie O’Connell, famous for her portrayal in the original West end cast of SIX, plays the youngest version of Cher, or ‘Babe’ as she is aptly named in the programme. This must be one of O’Connells best roles to date, she sounds like perfection and brings innocence, naivety and attitude to the role.
Danielle Steers, who’s credits include Bat Out of Hell, Six, Sweet Charity and Beautiful (to name only a few), plays Cher during her tougher times with Sonny Bono through their divorce and her moving on. Whilst she may have the smallest role out of the three, she still captures the innocence that O’Connell brings but steps up her stardom and you can see this woman becoming a legend. With natural acting ability, she becomes a woman right in front of your eyes and Danielle has a stage presence that just can’t be taught.
Debbie Kurup, fresh from the West end production of The Prince of Egypt, plays Cher as a fully realised iconic Diva. She has the right balance of ego but still manages to capture all the qualities Steers and O’Connell bring to the role. Taking on the whole of Act two, she has the biggest chunk to tackle as Cher and she does it with ease and a top quality level of performance.
These three ladies make this production and if it wasn’t for them, the show would not be what it is.
The direction of the piece isn’t as sophisticated as you would expect, whilst the budget on this show may be a fraction of the original Broadway production, there’s too much literal spelling out to the audience. We don’t need to know every date change every 5 minutes, the audience are intelligent enough to know when time has based on. Supported by the performances from their leading ladies, it’s already clear enough.
The choreography of the piece isn’t at the level it should be, it feels disjointed and with a small ensemble it just does’t blow us away. In relation to the time periods and style of the show, its almost as if Oti Mabuse was working on a completely different show and didn’t see any of the other content when creating her routines.
In terms of costume, Gabriella Sale does a good job with what she has. The leading ladies wardrobe may not be Bob Mackie standard but it remains true to Cher’s style and flamboyance. One thing I couldn’t get over were the ensemble’s costumes, they wore the same thing throughout which doesn’t work when they play other characters, I just cannot believe someone is meant to be Cher’s television director when he’s standing there in a sailors costume .
Mentions must go to Lucas Rush and Tori Scott. Rush, as Sonny Bono, brings a lot to the piece and they balance out the Cher’s. Whilst the direction around Sonny’s tougher moments may be a little questionable, they have the talent to pull off anything that’s thrown at them. And with incredible vocals, Rush is certainly a stand out in the show. Scott, as Georgia Holt, brings a motherly and warm quality to the role but also has a mean streak which is released in the later scenes, whilst the material she had to work with left a lot to the imagination she does a wonderful job at centring the action in her moments on stage.
Whilst the show may be lacking in creative areas, the three leading ladies pull it all together and without them, the show would not be what it is. This show gets three stars, one for each of the iconic ladies playing the legend that is Cher, Bitch.
Review by Mark Swale
Seat: Stalls, G1 | Price of Ticket: £13