Rick Elice (book)
Royo, Fiery Angel, Cuffe & Taylor/Live Nation, Playing Field, Aria Entertainment, Jones Theatrical Group, Tilted
Manchester Opera House
May 17-21, 2022 (also Liverpool Empire, Jan 17-21, 2023; Venue Cymru, Llandudno, Feb 28-March 4, 2023); 2hr 30min
Do you believe in life after love? Cher, or at least one version of her, does, and this show – her selected life story played out through her songs – makes it hard not to agree.
A joyful romp in a similar vein to other fizzy-pop jukebox hits such as Mamma Mia, this one tells the true story of the life of Cherilyn Sarkisian through a triptych of Chers: "Babe" (Millie O’Connell), "Lady" (Danielle Steers), and "Star" (Debbie Kurup). Each representing a life stage, O’Connell and Steers take the narrative in Act 1, with Kurup taking the whole of Act 2, from 1979 until more-or-less the present day. But they remain on stage together and interact throughout, creating a kind of cross-linear conversation between Cher and her former or future self.
It’s a great introspective device that gives us a real insight into the character as she grows. Perhaps three Chers are indeed better than one.
There is Hollywood-style lighting galore, and the stage is flanked by 48 disembodied mannequin heads, bewigged in Cher-like splendour. The show revolves partly around clothes but primarily music, and the songs are shoehorned into the story in true jukebox musical style. The non-chronological order is sometimes elegant, sometimes not. They are perhaps most successful when presented in the context of actual performance – as we experience the recreated magic of Sonny and Cher’s early days in the 1960s, TV recordings in the mid-period, to the iconic 1998 hit, Believe.
It must be tricky to recreate such an iconic vocal style, incredibly low and rich, yet this show does it three times over. O’Connell, Steers and Kurup present the diva as well vocally as they do visually, with all the sparkles, fringes, physical mannerisms and vocal decorations that make her so unmistakably Cher.
Just when you think it can’t get any camper, the finale – a joyous medley that starts and ends with Believe – employs all three Chers clad, with increasing theatricality, as what appear to be Valkyries on acid. All husbands have been despatched, all lovers departed. What remains is a hedonistic utopia of costume, choreography and song.
So, after all that, do I believe in life after love? I think I do.
Info and tickets here