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23rd May 2022

Review: The Cher Show

Secoura Grim reviews The Cher Show at Manchester Opera House, the musical based on the life of Cher, starring Debbie Kurup, Danielle Steers and Millie O’Connell
Review: The Cher Show
Millie O’Connell, Danielle Steers and Debbie Kurup. Photo: Pamela Raith Photography.

Do you believe in life without Cher?

There is no musical icon comparable to Cher. She has most certainly left the greatest stamp on popular culture for decades now. The Cher Show transports us to Cher’s past with not 1 but 3 Chers taking us through her story from her teen years all the way to the eternal icon she has become.

Babe – played by Olivier nominee Millie O’Connell (Six)  – takes us through Cher’s younger years, when she leaves home at 16 to pursue an acting career and meeting Sonny. She plunges into showbiz as her and Sonny release their top hit ‘I Got You Babe’. We watch the production of Cher Enterprises and Sonny and Cher’s tumultuous relationship becoming even more intense.

Danielle Steers (Bat Out of Hell) as Lady navigates us through the 70s, which includes Cher’s split with Sonny and relationship with Greg Allman. Steers not only has an incredible voice, she brings sass to the character and delivers excellent one-liners about the age-defying legend that Cher is.

Olivier nominee Debbie Kurup (The Bodyguard) plays Star, taking us through the 80s and 90s, where Cher becomes a hit in Hollywood, says goodbye to a recently deceased Sonny in a truly touching scene, and gains new-found success with ‘Believe’.

Each Cher brings something unique. They all do impeccable imitations of Cher, both vocally and in mannerisms. Whilst one Cher is taking us on the main narrative, the others support, sing and act as confidantes to each other along the way.

Yet, the musical does not shy away from setback: the backlash Cher received throughout the years for being a woman, the struggles of fame, and the difficult relationships she encounters. It does not hide the financial struggles Cher encountered, including the fact that Cher Enterprises was 95% owned by Sonny and 5% owned by their lawyer.

The criticism she received for wearing outfits that were too revealing for a woman (but she wore them anyway) displays how Cher has received her iconic status today. In many ways, she has pushed back at the limitations placed on her, teaching everyone they are strong enough to tackle the criticism the world chucks at you.

It was a fabulously executed show, thanks to two Strictly stars – direction from Dame Arlene Phillips DBE and choreography from Oti Mabuse.

The set design and and costumes made for a beautiful viewing experience. The stage was bright and bordered with rows and rows of Cher-inspired wigs across the decades, so Cher’s iconic looks have a presence throughout the musical as we move through space and time. The sets move us through stages, backstage and music booths. Each is boldly announced (e.g. the year written on the headboard of a bed), and the costumes immerse us into the different decades. Starting off with the hippie attire and fashion of the 60s dancing through to the glam and flares of the 70s and 80s, the costume department certainly had fun creating outfits that touch every colour palette and capture every decade immaculately, reinventing Cher throughout the years.

The show received a standing ovation, which is no surprise for the verve and energy it brought on stage. The audience refrained from singing along until the finale, where everyone was on their feet dancing and singing along to Cher’s timeless lyrics in the most marvellous megamix curtain call.

Cher has inspired just celebrities, audiences, and communities (including the LGBTQ+ community) over the years. This musical carries on inspiring by sharing her story. I left the theatre feeling compelled to go chase all of my dreams, and I know everyone around me did too.

The Cher Show plays at Manchester Opera House from 17th until 21st May before continuing its UK tour until March 2023.

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