Review: The Cher Show, New Theatre, Cardiff

Andy Howells visits Cardiff New Theatre for the Welsh debut of The Cher Show which tells the true story of one of popular music’s greatest icons.

Music is a gift that provides not only a soundtrack to our lives, but triggers memories of certain eras good, bad and indifferent. However, as The Cher Show proves no matter what emotion we can experience as a listener (or even in Cher’s case as a performer) music can be empowering and uplifting.

The Cher Show, which makes its debut at Cardiff’s New Theatre this week certainly provides a lifetime full of emotional triggers for us all as an audience, as the subject Turns Back Time and guides us through her life story.

The Arlene Phillips directed musical doesn’t just give us a Cher, it gives us three aspects of her throughout different periods of her life, namely Babe (Millie O’ Connell), Lady (Danielle Steers) and Star (Debbie Kurup) (or how she / they humorously describe themselves Innocence, Confidence and Arrogance). Although each aspect of Cher’s development has their own eras, the other Cher’s remain omnipresent throughout the show offering opinions, advice and insight, through tongue in cheek humour and occasionally song (which on occasion sees all aspects of Cher vocalise together).

From Sonny and Cher’s British TV debut on Top of The Pops performing I Got You Babe, (immaculately recreated for the stage by Millie O’ Connell and Lucas Rush) via Cher’s strength to break free from a “no rest” career controlled by her husband with Bang, Bang, (I Shot My Baby Down) to her ultimate career rebirth with I Found Someone and Heart of Stone, each moment is magically recreated to audience appreciation. Occasionally, you may feel a tear of emotion, not just from the powerful storyline, but how real the musical recreations appear, these quickly evolve into tears of joy for those of us never having the opportunity of seeing Cher perform live.

The three leading ladies are pure magic to watch, you really do see and hear them as aspects of one and the same character, full of humour while passionate about their art as life choices bring maturity, experience and its fair share of good times and drama.

There is strong support from the male leads Jake Mitchell as Bob Mackie and Sam Ferriday as Greg Allman. Particularly outstanding is Lucas Rush portrayal of Cher’s first husband and collaborator Sonny Bono. While pop historians particularly haven’t been kind to Bono over the years, I feel The Cher Show redresses the balance somewhat with an honest portrayal of a creative mind that didn’t have all his priorities were they should have been when it came to taking time out with his family or recognising Cher’s potential as a business partner or a solo artist in what many deemed “a man’s world” in the early 1970s.

Tori Scott gives a brilliant performance as Cher’s Mother Georgia and if anything, I would have loved to hear Miss Scott sing more in the show, as she gave some wonderful performances in various scenes.

Also adding to the uplifting musical experience were the ensemble cast working their magic with some tight but extremely slick choreography created by Oti Mabuse. Tom Rogers Set Design, Gabriella Slade’s costume design and Arlene Phillips direction all deserve a mention leading the unsung creatives into driving The Cher Show into one of the most absorbing musicals on tour at present. You must see it to BELIEVE it!

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