Touring – reviewed at Curve, Leicester
Our latest visit to Curve could seem like a case of deja vu – a show based on the life story and back catalogue of a normal girl growing up in the 1960s who becomes a musical powerhouse – the setup bears a striking resemblance to that of Beautiful, which we saw last month.
But The Cher Show takes a much more bombastic approach to the biomusical, as befitting the vampy glamour of the queen of camp. Arlene Phillips’ new production (the European premiere) is a frothy concoction of corny jokes and power ballads, drenched in enough glitter to put the Strictly ballroom to shame.
The premise sees Cher (Debbie Kurup) about to go onstage for her farewell tour. Facing a crisis of confidence the singer addresses her younger selves (Danielle Steers and Millie O’Connell), delving into her past (or, ahem, wanting to ‘Turn Back Time’) in search of the lyrical meaning behind her comeback single ‘Believe’.
It’s an interesting concept, which could draw comparisons with Albee’s Three Tall Women, but beyond this initial intrigue, Rick Elice’s by-the-numbers book lacks the wit of similar biomusicals (eg Douglas McGrath’s droll yet charming book for Beautiful) or the guts to go all out with the theatrical concept of the three Chers.
The casting gimmick goes some way to mask the fact that Cher’s life story isn’t exactly a thrill a minute: we see her as a shy young girl meeting Sonny Bono (Lucas Rush) for the first time; together they scale the fame ladder with a few tiffs along the way; Cher eventually branches out on her own and takes her career into her own hands. The most dramatic moment comes when Cher’s young boyfriend, Rob Camiletti, punches a paparazzo – it’s not exactly high-stakes stuff and I didn’t feel like Elice provided any real insight into Cher’s character beyond the surface.
Despite the slightly clunky book, Phillips’ production uses the playful premise to maximum effect during the musical numbers, with the classic Cher vocals amplified threefold. Belters such as ‘Strong Enough’, ‘I Found Someone’ and ‘We All Sleep Alone’ are pumped out at full volume, showcasing the excellent vocals of the three leads as they strut around the stage in Gabriella Slade’s dazzling costumes. Tom Rogers’ set design also impressively propels the action: from New York subways to TV studio dressing rooms and the bright lights of Las Vegas, Rogers humorously incorporates dates into the minimal set pieces to ground the action in space and time. The music and book do occasionally come together to work some storytelling magic, and I especially enjoyed the section charting Cher’s acting career, set to the rhythm of ‘The Beat Goes On’. Kurup shines during these scenes, and Act 2 rightly belongs to her as she holds the audience in the palm of her hand.
While I wouldn’t class myself as a Cher fan, it’s easy to see why she is adored by so many – bold yet enigmatic, she remains a woman at the top of her game, and it’s refreshing to see the message of the musical reflected in the female-lead creative process of this production. The Cher Show doesn’t break any boundaries, but it’s a fun night out, filled with rocking songs performed to a high standard, and is an entertaining addition to the juke box musical genre.
The Cher Show plays at Curve, Leicester until 23rdApril.
For further dates and tour details please visit: https://cheronstage.com/
Debbie Kurup as Star (centre) in The Cher Show, credit Pamela Raith
‘A frothy concoction of corny jokes & power ballads’: @nobillington turns back time with @ArlenePhillips’ new touring production of @TheCherShow, starring @thedebbiekurup @DanielleSteers & @MillieOConnell as #Cher. #musicals #touring #theatrereviews