More than half a century after an adventurous teenager recorded “I Got You Babe” with her boyfriend Sonny Bono, the life and career of Cherilyn Sarkisian La Piere Bono Allman is being transformed into a lavish Broadway musical, The Cher Show. How can six decades of superstardom (with no end in sight) be compressed into one evening of theater? For starters, three charismatic actresses share the title role, narrating and commenting on the highs and lows of Cher’s oh-so-eventful existence while singing 35 smash hits. In recent chats with Broadway Direct, Stephanie J. Block, Teal Wicks, and Micaela Diamond reflected on the many sides of Cher — and the power of taking the stage in sparkling Bob Mackie gowns. See them live at Broadway’s Neil Simon Theatre (beginning November 1).
Stephanie J. Block
Before The Cher Show: A two-time Tony Award nominee for revivals of Falsettos and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Block has starred on Broadway in Wicked, The Pirate Queen, 9 to 5, and Anything Goes. She made her Broadway debut as Liza Minnelli in The Boy From Oz.
Becoming an Icon: “The challenge for me in playing Cher is to balance the extraordinary creature you see in concerts with the vulnerable free spirit she is in real life. Everything surrounding her is over-the-top, and yet there is something very grounded about Cher. She’s been the coolest chick around for six decades! Stepping in to play any living legend is daunting, but if you’re going to jump into someone’s sequins, Cher is the one.”
Quick-Change Artist: “I have 21 costumes and more than 30 costume changes, but it’s not excess, it’s Cher. Every element in the show is epic and magical, but it feels appropriate for this story and this woman. When I was offered the part, I looked at my husband [actor Sebastian Arcelus] and said, ‘I’m going on to 46 years old. When will I ever be asked to be a pop goddess again?’ I knew I had to do it.”
A Beautiful Life: “I get to be on stage for the majority of the show, whether I’m part of the story line or watching my younger selves. There are moments when a youthful, vibrant, fearless Cher takes over, and others when an older, wiser Cher weighs in. The storytelling has such a beautiful human element, which is something Cher was very vocal about. She said, ‘I love the humor, I love the sparkle, but give me the heart.’”
Before The Cher Show: A fan-favorite Elphaba in the Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Broadway productions of Wicked, Wicks has appeared on Broadway in Finding Neverland and Jekyll & Hyde, and starred in regional productions of Pippin and Carousel.
Sounds of the ’70s: “I play Cher in the 1970s during the Sonny & Cher show and when she started going solo and had her second marriage [to rocker Gregg Allman]. I’m obsessed with her clothes and songs from that time; ‘Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves’ is one of my favorites. Cher has a full, rich voice and a big range. She’s this combination of rock ’n’ roll and old-school torch singer, and it’s been so much fun leaning into that.”
Dark Lady: “I’m fair-skinned with red hair, so I have a specific makeup palette. You put on the black wig, open the eyes up, get those cheekbones going, and when you look in the mirror, suddenly it’s ‘Oh! There’s Cher.’ The first time I walked down the hall in full hair, makeup, and costume, some of the cast couldn’t tell it was me, which was just the best. When you don’t have to think about how you look, you can concentrate on the emotional honesty of the story.”
A Woman in Full: “It’s really interesting to jump into the skin of a woman who is always evolving and growing and who has been successful in everything she’s tried to do. Cher says, ‘There are a lot of different versions of me, and I feel confident in every single one of them.’ She has some sort of magical power! Stephanie, Micaela, and I come together to create a full person, which is an awesome responsibility, and very exciting for audiences.”
Before The Cher Show: A graduate of Fiorello LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, 18-year-old Diamond will make her Broadway debut as Cher. “I got the role two days before I was about to go to college [at Carnegie Mellon],” she says. “It was my third audition ever.”
Young and Restless: “I’m playing that time in Cher’s life when she was discovering her superpowers and falling madly in love. She didn’t look like Marilyn Monroe or her idol Audrey Hepburn, but she knew she had something special. When she was 8 years old, Cher said she was going to be a star, and I’ve known since I was 5 that I wanted to be on Broadway. I think that’s why I connect with her so deeply — we both have such a passion for performing.”
The Mackie Touch: “Oh, my gosh, every time I go in for a fitting with [costume designer] Bob Mackie, he says, ‘Take it up an inch,’ or ‘More midriff.’ So much of playing Cher is finding her swagger, and Jason [Moore], our director, has given me the confidence to do it. I have a picture of Cher in my dressing room in my exact wig and makeup, and when I look at it, I feel so connected to her.”
A Star Is Born: “There’s a magic thing that happens when Jarrod [Spector, as Sonny Bono] and I sing ‘I Got You Babe.’ Cher and Sonny fall in love all over again, and you get to see her become the star we know today. I play Cher’s wide-eyed optimism, Teal plays the strength and confidence, and Stephanie plays the wisdom, but you’ll notice that we all have all three of those qualities. I’m just the most thankful human being alive to be part of this show.”
Pictured Above: Teal Wicks, Stephanie J. Block, and Micaela Diamond in The Cher Show at Broadway in Chicago’s Oriental Theatre. Photo by Joan Marcus.