REVIEW: The Cher Show - A New Musical at the Empire Theatre, Sunderland

Given Cher discovered the secret of eternal youth in the latter years of the 20th century it’s surprising that a stage show of her life has been so long in the making.

By Richard Ord
Thursday, 28th April 2022, 12:15 pm
Updated Thursday, 28th April 2022, 12:15 pm
The Cher Show promotion poster.
The Cher Show promotion poster.

But rather than focus on the age-defying scientific breakthrough which saw her look younger and younger as the decades slipped by, The Cher Show instead revels in her rollercoaster life in the fickle world of entertainment.

Maybe the delay was because she refused to share her secret, who knows? But it’s here now and with more than 30 hits shoe-horned into an all-singing, all-dancing, glitter-splattered feast for the eyes and ears, you get more than your money’s worth in entertainment.

Hey, you even get three Chers for the price of one! What a steal.

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Hendon-born Debbie Kurup plays one of three Chers in The Cher Show.

Given Cher’s career started in the Sixties, there were plenty of emotional ups and downs in the storyline for the trio of actors playing the multi-talented performer to negotiate in what turned out to be a couple of hours of pure energetic and enthusiastic escapism.

And while it’s Cher’s name in the title, this musical proved to be a wonderful showcase for up-and-coming young talent.

The Cher Show runs through the decades chronologically, but the three actors playing Cher at different stages in her career are rarely off-stage … and never off-key.

Each Cher not only represents a time in the artist’s life, but also her state of mind. Milllie O’Connell plays Babe, the vulnerable teen wannabe Cher; Danielle Steers is Lady, Cher’s belligerent rising star; and Hendon-born Debbie Kurup transforms into Star, the fully-formed and resurgent Cher, still ambitious but plagued by self-doubt.

THE CHER SHOW - LtoR Millie O'Connell, Debbie Kurup, Danielle Steers, credit Matt Crockett

While it may sound confusing, it absolutely works.

Each actor brings their own to the performances and together their vocal power ensures a triple-whammy for the lug holes - in the nicest possible way.

Given the real Cher’s penchant for eye-popping sequin-encrusted garments and barnets to give hairdressers sleepless nights the world over, the costume department has had a ball.

From the bell-bottoms of the Swinging Sixties to the barely-there less-is-more dresses of the Naughty Nineties, we get the full gamut of Cher’s trendsetting fashions. Kim Kardashian hails Cher as a major influence, but let’s not hold that against her.

Singer and actress Cher. Photo: Ron Sachs / Getty Images

The support cast includes Lucas Rush as Cher’s main business and love interest Sonny and Sam Ferriday multi-tasking as key, and often controversial, figures in her life. Jake Mitchell as her personal designer Bob Mackie is particularly impressive in the scene-stealing department. Definitely one to watch…

With Arlene Phillips as director and Oti Mabuse as the show’s choreographer, the dance set-pieces are perfectly on point helping the show flow through the decades with verve and energy.

Cher’s life is a well-documented near-rags to considerable riches story with a sprinkling of set-backs, controversy and wrong turns that are all spectacularly compensated by musical awards, Hollywood accolades and numerous spectacular right turns.

If you’re looking for new insights into the showbiz legend, however, you’re in the wrong place.

This upbeat retelling reveals little new, but why should it? It’s a musical not a documentary.

The Cher Show is an unashamedly uptempo celebration of decades of success improbably squeezed (much like Cher in her more outrageous costumes) into one night of welcome escapism.

There’s plenty of one-liner laughs and oddball characters to keep everyone entertained as evening heads towards a kaleidoscopically colourful finale that, quite simply, brought the house down.

Not so much Shoop Shoop as Woop Woop! Great fun.

The Cher Show - A New Musical is at the Empire until Saturday April 30.