Dazzling dancing. Fabulous beaded, spangled costumes originally designed for the Broadway show by theatrical designer Bob Mackie. And three multi-talented women portraying the iconic performer Cher …
Dazzling dancing. Fabulous beaded, spangled costumes originally designed for the Broadway show by theatrical designer Bob Mackie. And three multi-talented women portraying the iconic performer Cher in crucial stages of her life who grabbed the audience by the throat and didn’t let go when The Gateway’s The Cher Show debuted at Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts.
Audience cheers erupted frequently with patrons singing or punching out lyrics in the air. Talk about a thundering avalanche by the finale.
The story of Cher who emerged as an eventual triple threat goddess force, first performing with Sonny Bono in the mid- 1960s and in the 1970s with The Sonny and Cher Show and then beyond to a six-decade career eventually winning a Grammy Award, an Emmy Award and an Oscar, isn’t an easy one to tell. But the story line and its three stars, Aléna Watters as Star, Cher’s older self; Charissa Hogeland as Lady, the Cher who performed with Sonny on their television shows; and Madeline Hudelson as Babe, the gawky, unsure 16-year-old Cherilyn Sarkisian with the knockout voice, were brilliant with amazing vocals and acting.
At its heart is the relationship between Cher, shy and worshipful at first, and Sonny, brash, highly confident and driven who sees something in Cher that she doesn’t. Sonny is played by Dino Nicandros and his singing is superb, (much better than the real Sonny’s pipes). He embodies the role masterfully and the poignant moments between he and Cher as well as the tension as he pushes his wife to the breaking point are touching and riveting.
(They remained friends after divorcing. Cher was requested by Sonny’s wife, Mary, to say his eulogy after his skiing accident death.)
Some production number kudos “Ain’t Nobody’s Business if I Do,” parades Cher’s emergence as a fashionista with glittering costumes joined by the cast; a pirate outfit, fanned out coats, just about covered cleavage in a cowboy outfit, outrageous hats and headpieces and a handsome Native American chief, oh my! (Enjoy the strutting on the catwalk stage.) The number showcases Mackie’s fashion influence; his artistry is stunning.
“Bang Bang” is an amazing song and dance number with Star, Lady and the ensemble. Cher is represented as a controlled woman trying to break out of a male dominated world. So is “Dark Lady,” the battle between Sonny and Gregg Allman. Both got big shout outs.
David Engel, a regular Gateway alum as well as on Broadway, got his star turn as Bob Mackie (he also plays director Robert Altman) who hails Cher’s choices in life. In “The Beat Goes On,” he revels along with Star, Babe and his assistant, played by Jesse Jones. It’s a fun, exuberant showstopper.
Bows also to Angie Schworer to plays Georgia Holt, Cher’s truth-telling, supportive mother; her voice is fabulous. (She also plays Lucille Ball, another strong, successful woman who was business partners with her husband, divorced him and went on with her life.) John Rochette gets the charming but drug addled persona of rocker Gregg Allman perfectly and Alexander Rios is a lovely, down-to-earth Rob Camilletti who yearns for a simple life with Cher but can’t get it.
Applause to director David Ruttura’s expert guidance, his initial start was as a substitute flyman for Gateway in 2001. He then went on to direct many Gateway productions and other credits including film. Charissa Hogeland and Madeline Hudelson reprised their roles from Ogunquit Playhouse earlier this year and Alena Watters was the understudy for Star on Broadway. Choreographer Jane Lanier choreographed the show at Ogunquit Playhouse and has received Tony Award and Drama Desk nominations. The musicians creating Cher’s favorite songs and the entire cast, 22, in all, performed with gusto and heart. (And were probably so pumped up after the show, they didn’t sleep!)
There’s a sisterhood honesty as the Cher characters appear at different transitional times to support or warn when an important decision is looming. But the overall message is: Work through your fear. Be yourself. And this is what Cher became: A talented, decent woman with a healthy sense of humor who stood up for herself, made career moves that scared her to death, and took a chance on love. The show is about striving, some heartbreak, belief in yourself and resiliency, an overall uplifter if there ever was one. It’s playing to September 11.
For tickets: Click on www.thegateway.org.
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