Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

The Cher Show
National Tour

Catherine Ariale, Morgan Scott, and Ella Perez
Photo by Meredith Mashburn Photography
It started (as far as I can tell) with Jersey Boys: a jukebox musical that uses an artist's oeuvre to tell their story, rather than pasting their songs onto a new story, as Mamma Mia! did when it began the trend. But like the story of Frankie Valli and his bandmates (or that of Carole King in Beautiful, the Temptations in Ain't Too Proud, or Tina Turner or Donna Summer or The Kinks or...), The Cher Show pulls together more than two dozen songs (some she sang, some which influenced her career) to tell the origin story of the woman who has been called "The Queen of Pop."

The Cher Show, which is in town for a very brief engagement (final performance is Sunday), hits the stage at BroadwaySF's Curran Theater in the heart of Pride Month. Fittingly, the show is brash, colorful, creative, even campy, bursting with color and movement. It tells the story of how young Cherilyn Sarkisian rose to stardom, fell into near obscurity, rose to stardom again, only to fall back once more before rising again as a septuagenarian trendsetter and megastar.

It's a tale with many twists and turns along the road to fame: being teased by classmates for her ethnic look (expressed here via Cher's song "Half Breed"), being "discovered" by Sonny when she was just 16 and singing backup on Phil Spector's projects, having a hit TV show, divorcing Sonny, having a tempestuous (and brief) marriage to rocker Gregg Allman, making hit records, winning an Oscar, and much more.

Thanks to the skills of bookwriter Rick Elice, a lot of story gets packed into this two-hour and 40 minute (including intermission) show. Elice is a master of efficiency (his book for Jersey Boys is an exemplar of writing that is both concise and richly detailed), and even though this is a relatively long evening, it never seems to drag. (Although there is a lack at the heart of the story, but more on that later.) Elice and director Casey Hushion have populated their show with not one, not two, but three Chers: Babe (Ella Perez), the Cher of the '50s and '60s; Lady (Catherina Ariale), Cher as she was in the '70s; and Star (Morgan Scott), who takes Cher into the '80s, '90s, and beyond.

Elice and Hushion don't leave their three Chers in silos, locked away from each other; instead, they often have all three Chers on stage at the same time, so the Lady and Star can give advice to Babe, or so Babe can remind Lady and Star of where they came from and the dream they had for themselves. This also fulfills the fantasy of those who have imagined three Chers harmonizing with each other.

The three performers playing Cher all have solid, powerful voices. Though no one can perfectly match Cher's bold, distinctive tone, Perez, Ariale, and Scott come close enough. (Though of the three, Ariale has mostly closely approximated Cher's speech mannerisms and gestures.) They all exhibit levels of chutzpah that let you know nothing is going to keep Cher down–at any stage in her career.

But perhaps the best thing about The Cher Show is the magnificent array of costumes from the GOAT (greatest of all time), Bob Mackie. There are dozens and dozens of recreations of gowns Mackie created over the years for Cher, as well as new designs created specifically for this show. There are, in fact, nearly 700 different costumes in the show, so there's always something to grab your eye, whether it's the iconic, skintight number with feathered headdress Cher wore on Oscar night 1986, or the fur vests from the days of "The Sonny & Cher Show," or the shimmering gowns that extend with iridescent wings spanning six feet or more. The show is almost worth it for the costumes alone.

Despite all this amazing talent at work, this story of a shy girl who became, well, Cher, The Cher Show somehow managed to leave me flat, in a way that I haven't yet quite put my finger on. I think perhaps, despite Rick Elice's tremendous talent, there is something that seems structurally amiss in the story: he fails to give us that hook at the top of the show that drives the story to its conclusion. For MJ, the Michael Jackson musical, the story turns on Jackson's desire to somehow top the biggest-selling record of all time. It's a spine upon which other elements of the story are attached. Here, the story proceeds linearly (although the songs jump from era to era), but fails to really set the stakes, or establish a specific goal for our heroine to achieve. We know how this story ends–icon for the ages–so we need the route to that end to have something at stake for we in the audience, also.

Yet, despite my concerns, I can assure you there is still a hell of a lot of fun to be had at the Curran. At least until Sunday.

The Cher Show runs through June 23, 2024, at the Curran Theatre, 445 Geary Street, San Francisco CA. Tickets range from $46-$144. For tickets and information, please visit, or visiting the Curran box office. For information on the tour, visit