cher single

Debbie Kurup as Cher. Picture: Pamela Raith Photography

The Cher Show

A New Musical

Birmingham Hippodrome


When it comes to jukebox musicals this is right up there in the genre's Premier League top six; it’s flash, brash and class and a delight for Cher fans, of which there must be many with some 100 million records sold, so far, during her long career.

Her story is one of overcoming everything life threw at her from the start, such as being laughed at for her black haired and olive skinned appearance at school, the legacy of an Armenian father, who left her mother, Georgia, before she was a year old. It was to spawn her controversial hit, Half-breed.

Then there was her success in the 1960s and 70s, when women’s stardom was controlled and often exploited in what was predominantly a man’s world, and often ruled by not the nicest of men either.

It meant she became a megastar, but with a contract that owned her without a say and left her broke, and being broke was not uncommon as her career went up and down like a rowing boat in heavy seas.

But each time she fell off the career horse, Cher, often encouraged by her somewhat eccentric mom, Georgia, got back on in a career which takes in Broadway plays, Oscar winning movies, writing and directing as well as her music. Believe was not just a Cher hit, it was her mantra, her philosophy.

In a career spanning 60 years or so there have been many Chers as she has had to reinvent herself time and again and this production reflects that with not just one but three Chers.

the three Chers

Three for the price of one: Millie O'Connell as Babe, Danielle Steers as Lady and Debbie Kurup as Star.

We have Babe played with infectious enthusiasm and distinctive contralto voice by Millie O’Connell, who, no one will be surprised to know on this showing, has also starred in Six.

She is the 50s and 60s Cher from elementary school trike to I Got You Babe in 1965 with Sonny Bono, the song that launched both their careers.

Lady is our 70s Cher, played by Danielle Steers, another one with Six in her CV. It was the time of The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour hit TV show on CBS in the USA and Cher’s first solo No 1 in the USA, Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves, and what a voice she has.

Then we have Star, the Cher of the 80s and 90s, from Debbie Kurup, who can really belt out a song. It was a period that gave us If I Could Turn Back Time, Heart of Stone, We all Sleep Alone, The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss) and her huge international hit Believe.

The three Chers, and three great voices, represent different eras but there is no compartmentalisation, scenes are joint affairs, the three talk to each other, give advice, encouragement, admonish and support each other, a sort of sisterhood across the years. 

There is plenty of support as well from the likes of Tori Scott as Georgia, who sports a find voice herself, and when it comes to support, meet Sam Ferriday and the art of multi-tasking.

He plays rock star Greg Allman, who she married after Sonny, and divorced over his drink and drugs problems then Rob Camilleti, a bagel baker and sometime actor, who was 22 when Cher, then 40, dated him for a couple of years in the 80s. Sam also turns up as the record producer Phil Spector and covering all the bases first enters her life as John Southall, Georgia’s third husband and Cher’s stepfather (one of several, but the one she saw as her dad).

I got you babde

 Millie O'Connell as Babe and Lucas Rush as Sonnywith the iconic I Got You Babe

For people of a certain age Sonny is always floating nearby in the ether when anyone mentions Cher, and Lucas Rush gives us all sides of the man who perhaps, not always with the best intentions, made Cher what she became.

Sonny is charming, funny and a fixer, organising gigs, a real wheeler dealer. Sonny is the driving force and his I got You Babe is what got the show on the road.

But we were to see he was also manipulative, working Cher like a machine, and controlling her life to the point she did not have a share, or even a say in her own company, her own career, indeed herself. The pair were to split acrimoniously, but then work together again, briefly, as Cher's career hit another downturn.

The story of Cher in Rick Elice’s book is pencilled in, skimming the surface, hinting at much more to tell, but then, after all, this is a jukebox musical, the fans are not there for deep, meaningful drama, they are there for the songs, and this is a show packed with them all led by an excellent six strong orchestra under musical director Danny Belton, with Dan Samson’s sound design well balanced throughout and then given some wall shaking bass for a seven song, up on your feet, sing along, finale.

Tom Roger’s set design is a grey sombre affair, looking a bit like across between a movie sound stage and a fashion store warehouse with clothes on racks up to the roof flanking the stage, clothes being a Cher thing, but that is brightened up with roll on trucks and various date indicators in styles of the times portrayed.

Ben Cracknell takes star billing for his lighting design making full use of the wonders you can create with computers and LED lamps. At times the National Grid must have been in danger of overload in what was a spectacular light show backing the music.

A mention too for Gabriella Slade’s costumes, Cher had a flair for outlandish and sexy clothes and Gabriella pays homage to that.

South African Oti Mabuse has created some telling choreography, which integrates into the show rather than just fills in a few minutes with a dance. She perhaps had to be on her toes herself with Arlene Phillips, as the director.

Arlene is best known for Strictly but that is little more than a footnote in a career as director or choreographer that spans a host of hit TV, film and stage productions.

And speaking of productions, a nod to ROYO, a relatively new company, who are lead producers of this show as well as The Osmonds, on tour now, and also Fisherman’s Friends, on tour shortly and both heading to Birmingham in the autumn.

After the lean years of the pandemic, with theatres dark much of the time, they have invested a lot in this show, and from a standing audience reaction at the end the risk is paying off.

If you are not a committed Cher fan when it starts you will be heading there when it ends. It’s a shiny, bright, chromed glitzy, jukebox with an all singing, all dancing playlist of hits and memories playing until closing time on 06-08-22.

Roger Clarke


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