Cher, ma chère

It’s easy to find the love in Cher and, not surprising then, that a musical, “The Cher Show,” opened on Broadway in December, depicting her remarkable career.  One of the promotional ads for the show claims, “Superstars come and go. Cher is forever.”  Hard to argue there.  With a career spanning six decades — she has had a number-one selling single on the Billboard charts in each of them — Cher has given us anthems and songs full of hope, love and empowerment for all. 

Her messages of inclusion particularly resonate with a broad fan base. We’ve danced to her hits, shared her trials and tribulations through three marriages and reveled in an icon with a singular voice that’s easy to identify. Her talents as a singer, together with her accomplishments as an actress and producer, have earned Cher a Grammy, an Oscar and three Golden Globes, the best actress award at the Cannes Film Festival and, most recently, acclaim as a John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts honoree. 

“The Cher Show” came to life, with much input and involvement from Cher herself, who serves as one of the producers and has been hands-on in all aspects of the production. She elicited the help of the talented Rick Elice, who wrote the script for “Jersey Boys,” to tell her story, and three “Chers” were cast to play the legend at various points of her life — with Stephanie J. Block, the eldest and standout of the three, expected to receive a Tony Award nomination for her performance. The gowns, all by her ever-constant friend and design talent, Bob Mackie, are a show in themselves — with more than 30 created to reproduce some of her well-known showstoppers and many original ones for this production.

Even the most devoted fans will learn something they didn’t know about this legend. From her early days as a backup singer to becoming one half of Sonny & Cher, her journey was, however, not always an easy one. Going out on her own
after a painfully emotional and financially crippling break-up with Sonny Bono, she put in the work and took the risks to propel herself into a career as a successful solo artist.

How the show generated interest and support is a story that brought us to a local connection — two longtime Westchester County friends, Liz Bracken-Thompson of the public relations firm Thompson & Bender and Jean Marie Connolly of Altium Wealth, who committed to join a group of investors backing the production. Both Croton-on-Hudson residents, the two met years ago through The Business Council of Westchester, an organization each serves as a member of its executive committee. 

They quickly established a strong friendship over common interests, both being passionate about philanthropy and the arts, especially Broadway shows.

Over lunch with them at the charming Russian Samovar Restaurant alongside the Neil Simon Theatre before a matinee performance of “The Cher Show” in mid-December, I learned more about these two interesting and dynamic ladies.  Bracken-Thompson told me about meeting Cher back in 1982, when she was with Westchester Rockland Newspapers and interviewed her for an article in their TV Week publication. “I found her to be so authentic and down to earth and willing to engage. I remember that in talking about her child, Chastity, she told me, ‘I don’t care what she becomes, I just want her to be happy.’”

Both Liz and Jean Marie are happily married now and socialize frequently together with their husbands, but each had been in prior marriages. Getting back on their feet and building their careers required determination and strength, but as Liz said, “We’re survivors!” No wonder, then, that each was attracted to the show — the story of a powerful female with a voice that tells us to “believe.”

Jean Marie spoke about how each of them loves the Broadway experience and the great respect and admiration they have for the star, “so, we are just thrilled to be a part of it.” She instilled a love of the theater in her now 15-year old niece, Emma, taking her to shows annually in July for her birthday since she was a young girl.  This year, to celebrate her Sweet 16, they have planned a special trip to attend a show in London’s West End. 

Both believe that Cher’s incredible involvement and personal investment of time with the show, the cast and many other aspects of the production will lead to a long and successful run on Broadway. Cher’s story, of someone who had strength and courage to blaze the trail, is like that of other strong females in her life. Her mother, Georgina Holt, is played skillfully by Emily Skinner, another standout who also does a brief turn as Lucille Ball, someone we learn provided Cher with much needed encouragement during her darker days.

And Jarrod Spector, in the role of the complicated Sonny, has had prior successes on Broadway — Tony-nominated for his performance as Barry Mann in “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.” Most notably, he played the role of Frank Valli in “Jersey Boys,” for a record-setting 1,500 performances.  

With some of Cher’s biggest hits aptly woven into the unfolding narrative, the talented ensemble delivers energetic choreography throughout and is pretty easy on the eyes, too. As Liz and Jean Marie said, they were easily attracted to the “fun” aspect of the show.  Go see it, learn a few new facts about your friend, Cher, and tell me you didn’t have a blast.

For more, visit thechershowbroadway.com.

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