Sunderland Empire – until 30 April 2022
A musical telling the story of a fierce woman, played by three equally fierce women, directed (Dame Arlene Phillips), choreographed (Oti Mabuse) and with costumes(Gabriella Slade) by more fierce women and with at least one of the Producers (Katy Lipson from Aria Entertainment) yet another fierce woman. All competing, and currently at the top of their game, in a male-centric world makes The Cher Show an extra special, female empowering watch.
We begin with the three Cher’s – Babe (Millie O’Connor), Lady (Danielle Steers) and Star (Debbie Kurup) telling the different parts of Cher’s life story
Babe is the very young Cherilyn Sarkisian, bullied for looking different, an innocent who finds herself at 16 with Sonny Bono and a burgeoning career. O’Connor captures the naivety of this childlike Cher. Her mannerisms, masking her shyness are spot on and so is her obvious love and reliance for Bono (Lucas Rush), even though he’s working her too hard, meaning she can’t see baby Chas.
In Lady, a part Danielle Steers was born to play, we find a divorced Cher, finding her feet and taking control. Still working hard, Lady meets, marries and has a baby with Greg Allman (Sam Ferriday). Allman likes drink and drugs and Cher doesn’t, meaning the marriage is unsuccessful. Especially while she remains friends and works with Bono.
Star (Debbie Kurup) brings us up to date with the story. Her acting, despite having severe dyslexia. Her Oscar wins and her Chronic Fatigue Syndrome which exhausted her mentally and physically. And her assault on the music industry with some massive, iconic songs. Some of which were belted out during the performance.
My own personal favourite part was when the three Cher’s sing Believe to each other like a self-help mantra is a deeply personal, raw and emotional moment.
The live band (Amy Shaw, Kevin Oliver Jones, Joe Britton, Matt Billups, Tom Slade) led by Danny Belton play the numerous songs, in sometimes unexpected ways, as the songs and lyrics are used to punctuate the performances and move the plot along. It’s not necessarily in chronological order.
Ending the show with all three Cher’s singing along in a concert, giving the audience a chance to sing along to the well loved anthems, you leave the theatre on a high. Knowing that if you too believe, you too can do anything