THE role of Cher in The Cher Show, A New Musical will be shared by Debbie Kurup, Danielle Steers and Millie O’Connell at the Grand Opera House, York, next week during the first European tour.
In a case of Cher, Cher and Cher, the trio of musical actresses will portray America’s “goddess of pop” and “queen of reinvention” at three different stages of her career as a singer, actress and personality. TV: Millie as Babe; Danielle as Lady and Debbie as Star, each bounded by a different color palette.
On the road since April, the year-long UK and Irish tour of this 2018 Tony Award-winning Broadway hit has already visited Yorkshire, playing at the Alhambra Theatre, Bradford, in late October, directed by Arlene Phillips and choreographed twice Oti Mabuse, professional Strictly Come Dancing champion, with a book by Tony and Olivier Award-winning Rick Elice (Jersey Boys, The Addams Family), and costume design by Gabriella Slade (Six, In The Heights, Spice World 2019 Tour).
From a young child with big dreams in El Centro, California, the shy daughter of an Armenian American truck driver, to the heights of global stardom, The Cher Show tells the story of Cherilyn Sarkisian’s meteoric rise to 100 million record sales, an Academy Award, an Emmy, a Grammy, three Golden Globes and even an award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
As the ad copy says, “Cher takes the audience by the hand and introduces them to the influential people in her life, from her mother and Sonny Bono to fashion designer and costume designer Bob Mackie. It shows how she fought off men who underestimated her. , fought convention and, above all, was a pioneer of independence”.
Thirty-five hits, from I Got You Babe, Bang Bang and Gypsys, Tramps And Thieves to I Found Someone, If I Could Turn Back Time, The Shoop Shoop Song and Believe, from a songbook by the only artist to have a Billboard number one chart hit in six consecutive decades.
Let’s meet the three Chers in chronological order, first Millie O’Connell’s Babe. “I had worked with Arlene [director Arlene Phillips] before; she gave me my first job at 19 in television,” she says. “She’s followed my career ever since, and it’s really great to be able to work with her again. She and Oti and Gabriella are a really good female production team and that’s what appealed to me the most.
“Cher came into my life when I heard Believe. I was like, ‘That’s awesome’! I used to imitate that song as a party thing, and it was really exciting to push this imitation so far that it now becomes naturalistic.”
Millie plays Cher “before high cheekbones”, from the age of six to her early twenties, after working on voice, mannerisms and movement for four intense weeks, all leading up to a performance with 59 changes of suits. “I go through all these eras, from before I Got You Babe to The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour; I even have a costume change on stage in the first act!” she says.
Reflecting on Cher’s enduring qualities, Millie says, “I love that she’s a star who never hides her vulnerability. She reveals her heart, which is really empowering, especially for women.”
Lady by Danielle Steers picks up Cher’s story from the late 1960s to mid-1970s. “I’m Cher from the middle! Starting with The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour and ending with divorce,” she says.
“I was on a show called Bat Out Of Hell, when I was part of the original cast in London and on Broadway, and I sang Dead Ringer For Love, the duo Cher and Meat Loaf. That’s when where people said, “Oh my god, you sound like Cher, and I’ve never thought of my voice that way before.
“While I was in America, The Cher Show was there and I used to walk past the show sign on my way to work and I was like, ‘This looks amazing. “. I became obsessed!”
Danielle, born and raised in Barnsley, went through “a whole process of auditioning”, on Zoom and in person, for the UK tour, but is delighted to be singing several Cher songs now. “When you hear Cher, you know it’s her. I can’t identify her, but it’s the way she sings certain words and forms her vowels,” she says.
“Everyone is always trying to do their best impression of Cher, but even though it’s hard, in this show, you have to find that fine line between gimmick and reality, and of course Cher’s singing now doesn’t sound like not like he was doing in the 1960s, but we must be true to her at all times.”
Debbie Kurup plays Cher, the star. “She’s the eldest and wisest of the three Chers,” she said. “We actually start the series with ‘Star’ having a little crisis of confidence and enlisting the other two Dears to help him through the ages. I pick up the torch in act two, though I narrate everything at long.”
His admiration for Cher is boundless. “She’s amazing,” Debbie says. “Part of her inner strength comes from being bullied at school, dyslexic and never feeling like she belonged.
“Because she felt like an outsider, she always worked harder. She’s funny, she’s an accomplished artist, not afraid to reinvent herself. That’s what sets her apart, making she a megastar.”
The Cher Show, A New Musical takes place at the Grand Opera House, York, November 15-19, 7:30-2:30 p.m., Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday matinees. Ticket office: 0844 871 7615 or atgtickets.com/york.