sonny and cher

‘Babe’ Cher, played by Millie O’Connell and Lucas Rush as Sonny. Pictures: Pamela Raith

The Cher Show

The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton


I was fortunate enough to see Cher on her epic 326-date Farewell tour in 2004. It was one of the greatest rock and pop shows that I have ever seen.

She introduced the show with these words: “Ladies and gentlemen, and flamboyant gentlemen. Boys and girls and children of all ages. Welcome to the Cher-est show on earth. This is the official beginning to the Cher show. And all I have to say is, Rhianna, Beyonce, Britney, follow this, you bitches.”. And what a show it was!

This revue had some giant (high heeled) shoes to fill. Cher has been an ubiquitous cultural media presence since the 1960s as a singer and actress. How were they going to start to portray that? The answer – three Chers!

The Cher Show made its world premiere at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago, Illinois in June, 2018, it began previews on Broadway in November 2018, and officially opened on December 3, 2018, at the Neil Simon Theatre. It won Tony Awards for Stephanie J. Block (Lead Actress in a Musical) and for Bob Mackie (Costume Design for a Musical).

The musical's book is by Rick Elice. The producers of the show were Jeffrey Seller, Flody Suarez and Cher herself, the latter lending an authenticity and credibility to the production which remains.

In May 2021, a new touring production was announced in the UK and Ireland from April 2022 to April 2023 directed by Arlene Phillips and featuring choreography from Oti Mabuse, of Strictly Come Dancing and big hair fame.

cher show

Debbie Kurup as Cher.

The show differs from the Broadway production with modifications to the show's music, Rick Elice's book, and the costumes; which have been redesigned by Gabriella Slade who clearly likes sequins. Set design is by Tom Rogers a spectacular single multifunctional space, rock concert style lighting is by Ben Cracknell, sound design by Dan Samson, wigs, hair and make-up design by Sam Cox, music production by Gary Hickeson, and musical supervision by Rich Morris. The arrangements are fabulous with awesome segues and medleys changing faster than a Conservative Chancellor.

It starts with an older Cher (Debbie Kurup), who has lost her way, but feels the presence of her former selves in the shape of the younger less confident Babe Cher (Millie O’Connell), and the tougher, edgier, Lady Cher (Danielle Steers) who found global fame amid a break up, motherhood and the vicissitudes of her career. They form a Greek style narrative chorus for the entire show, commenting and advising on events as they unfold.

Guy Woolf is a talented and amusing Sonny, Tori Scott an effervescent Georgia, Greg Rambling Man Allman also features played engagingly by Sam Ferriday. I had forgotten the comedy element of the Sonny &Cher show, it is vibrantly and imaginatively recreated.

What sets this show apart is that it isn’t a concert musical, nor is it a narrated musical, or a bio-musical. Instead all 3 Cher incarnations look back on each other’s lives, throughout the ups and downs of life, meeting Sonny, fame, fortune and heartbreak. It is a clever and inspired twist on the challenge of producing juke box musicals in a fresh way.

It is a Cher multiverse with each Cher the mistress of her own destiny but only the present day Cher having the answers. She observes her former selves making decisions and mistakes that accrue into her ultimate self. You watch Cher grow up before your eyes. A young naïve Babe Cher unaware of what lies in front of her, the streetwise Lady Cher, bruised, resilient, but successful, and a Star Cher who knows the story but has to rediscover it. inevitably you have to Believe.

Cher embraces camp and glam and the production is awash with it. Awash with sequin drenched monochrome costumes and glorious, period faithful, choreography, oh, and fabulous songs. Even if, like me you do not own a single Cher record, you will still not only know all the songs, but all the words to all the songs.

The supporting cast of singers, dancers and musicians are terrific with concert quality lighting and a crisp, loud sound with all your favourite Cher songs, and those songs you had forgotten, but still remember now you have heard them again.

A show stopping standing ovation, foot stomping, encore finale features: Strong Enough, Woman's World, Dov'è L'amore, The Shoop Shoop Song (It's in His Kiss), I Found Someone and Believe . I feared the balcony would give way!

Oh what a show, what a night! The Cher musical runs until 22/10/22 and continues on nationwide tour.

Gary Longden


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