Cher on EGOT-ing, pol­i­tick­ing and tour­ing once more

The Washington Post Sunday - - ARTS & STYLE - BY ROGER CATLIN style@wash­post.com Cher March 17-26 at the The­ater at MGM Na­tional Harbor, 7100 Oxon Hill Rd., Oxon Hill, Md., Tick­ets: $109-$327. 301-971-5000. mgm­na­tion­al­har­bor.com.

“I know this is what peo­ple want. That’s why they call it ‘Clas­sic Cher.’ ” Cher, on singing her stan­dards along­side new songs at con­certs

It was more than a half­cen­tury ago that Cher­i­lyn Sark­isian LaPiere Bono — bet­ter known as Cher — be­came a pop star in the mid­1960s duo Sonny & Cher.

She would also be­come an Emmy­win­ning co­host on “The Sonny & Cher Com­edy Hour”; a solo record­ing star; a Grammy­win­ning dance icon (for her song “Be­lieve”); and an Os­car­win­ning ac­tress (for “Moon­struck”).

At 70, Cher is back tour­ing, with a dozen shows at the new MGM Na­tional Harbor in Mary­land start­ing March 17.

We spoke with her re­cently from Los An­ge­les about the show, her mor­tal­ity, po­lit­i­cal ac­tivism and new ven­tures on stage and screen.

Q: Are there ad­van­tages to play­ing new stages such as the Park The­ater Monte Carlo in Ve­gas and the MGM Na­tional Harbor?

A: I haven’t seen the other one, but the one in Ve­gas is just amaz­ing. It’s a joy to go out on it ev­ery day be­cause it’s so not like a lot of the the­aters that you play in. It’s a small arena, and it has the same feel­ing as an arena — ev­ery­body can stand up, you know, and dance around. There’s not the same kind of re­stric­tions as, like, Cae­sars Palace.

Q: The Ve­gas pro­duc­tion seems quite big. Is it the same pro­duc­tion that will be out here as well?

A: No, be­cause your place is too small. We’re go­ing to do what­ever we can fit in. We can’t fly things and stuff like that be­cause it’s just too small.

Q: Hav­ing 11 cos­tume changes must be dif­fi­cult to do ev­ery night.

A: You know what, I’m just so used to it, it doesn’t bother me at all. I mean, it’s fast, and there’s a mil­lion peo­ple do­ing every­thing. Ev­ery­body just does the thing that they do, and I just stand re­ally qui­etly and med­i­tate while they’re do­ing it.

Q: Is it as im­por­tant to fans to see the clothes as it is to hear their fa­vorite songs?

A: Well, you know, it started out that way. I did it to make me happy be­cause I just didn’t want to go out and stand in one out­fit and sing. I thought it would be so much more fun and more fes­tive and, you know, more show busi­ness. So that’s the way we started. And also, it started that way on “Sonny & Cher” be­cause I used to have 13 or 14 cos­tume changes a week on that.

Q: And you’re still us­ing the same de­signer after all th­ese years, Bob Mackie.

A: Ab­so­lutely. We’ve been work­ing to­gether for 40 years. We try to pick out the cos­tumes that go with the songs, and pretty much there’s a new cos­tume that goes with each one. The most I do in one out­fit is two songs.

Q: How do you keep your voice sound­ing the same? Is it be­cause it was so low to be­gin with?

A: Well, you know what? At one point, I started tak­ing lessons, and my voice just got so much bet­ter. It was al­ways strong, but it didn’t have the same kind of con­trol. I didn’t have the same range. So it’s ac­tu­ally got­ten bet­ter, and I’m sur­prised.

Q: Do you still like to sing the old songs?

A: I re­ally do. I like to sing the new songs, too. But I know this is what peo­ple want. That’s why they call it “Clas­sic Cher.”

Q: Like Clas­sic Coke?

A: Yes! Or like Clas­sic Dr Pep­per.

Q: You’re per­form­ing “I’ve Got You Babe” along­side Sonny in film clips. Is that dif­fi­cult to do for any rea­son, tech­ni­cally or emo­tion­ally?

A: Not tech­ni­cal, but emo­tion­ally I didn’t know it was go­ing to work for me. But I tried it, and it was re­ally fun. I thought it was go­ing to be hard, but ac­tu­ally it was fun.

Q: I saw your Farewell Tour 14 years ago. I guess peo­ple for­give you for it not ac­tu­ally hav­ing been your farewell.

A: Well, who knows that it’s not go­ing to be your farewell? I mean, who thinks that you’re go­ing to keep do­ing it, or that any­one is go­ing to want to come? You never know. It’s al­ways like, “Oh, well, it’s prob­a­bly fin­ished now.” You could put on a show, and you could go to sell tick­ets and no­body buys them. Also, when you get older, you don’t know what’s go­ing to hap­pen. Peo­ple are re­ally more in­ter­ested in young peo­ple.

Q: Your Twit­ter feed is very po­lit­i­cal. Will there be po­lit­i­cal con­tent in your show, and will you be do­ing any po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity while in Wash­ing­ton?

A: I just don’t think it’s right to do it from the stage. I can tell you, when you’re en­ter­tain­ing peo­ple, you have them in a con­fined area, and that’s just not the place to do it. Now, I marched in all the marches, and I’ll march in ev­ery march that I’m near. And I won’t give up. I won’t give up.

Q: I un­der­stand you were in the District for the Women’s March, but you didn’t get on­stage to speak?

A: No. It was re­ally a drag, be­cause they had wanted me to go on, and as I was start­ing to go on, some blond lady pushed me back. I was stand­ing there with Ali­cia [Keys], and this woman just, like, re­ally pushed me with all of her might, and then I was so taken aback, I was taken by sur­prise, and then she pushed Ali­cia on. I had talked in New York [at a Jan. 19 rally], and I was dis­ap­pointed. But my talk­ing wasn’t the most im­por­tant thing.

Q: And who was that blonde woman? Was it Madonna?

A: No. (Laugh­ter.) It was just some chick on the stage. I guess she was the di­rec­tor.

Q: What were you go­ing to say at the march that you were pre­vented from say­ing?

A: I was go­ing to say the same thing I said in New York, and that is: This is a time un­like any I’ve seen in my life. It’s fright­en­ing, and it’s with some­one who doesn’t know and doesn’t care how the sys­tem works, and it’s a trav­esty. So the only thing we can do is show our anger and our dis­ap­point­ment and our dis­con­tent by first of all or­ga­niz­ing. And that’s not enough. You have to take ad­van­tage of the or­ga­niz­ing, and you have to do some­thing with it. It can’t just be en­ergy that doesn’t get cap­tured and used.

Q: What’s the next step after or­ga­niz­ing, then?

A: You have to vote, and you have to start vot­ing at the bot­tom lev­els, and you have to get in­volved, and there are many or­ga­ni­za­tions to get in­volved with. And you have to do the grunt work.

Q: Your im­age popped up at the Os­cars this year, and it made me won­der why you haven’t been in any movies lately.

A: Well, I’m about to do a movie about Flint, Michi­gan, and I’m very ex­cited about that. I’ve been in­volved with Flint since pretty much the be­gin­ning, so I think this is go­ing to have merit.

Q: It sounds like a “Silk­wood”-type project.

A: It’s the same kind of idea. It’s like the movie with Ju­lia Roberts I was watch­ing the other night, “Erin Brock­ovich.” It’s all very much the same kind of idea. Those kinds of things are tied to­gether — when peo­ple who have no voice and have no one that’s in­ter­ested in who they are or what they think or what their lives mean. They don’t care. It’s like the bot­tom line: How much will it cost to keep do­ing this thing that is poi­son­ing peo­ple? Is it worth it, and will we get away with it? All the things that you don’t ex­pect of peo­ple that are sup­posed to take care of you and watch over you. You don’t ex­pect them to have no com­pas­sion and no em­pa­thy or hu­man­ity.

Q: Is it be­cause there was no ma­te­rial like this avail­able that you haven’t done movies in a while?

A: This was just a script that I read, and be­cause one of my close friends is Karen Weaver, who is the mayor of Flint. We got to be good friends, and I wanted to be a part of it. I just got an­other script, too. So things come to you. And when you’re sup­posed to do them, you do them.

Q: You have some­thing com­ing to Broad­way as well?

A: Right. Jeff Sell­ers, the pro­ducer that did “Hamil­ton,” he’s pro­duc­ing it. The writer [Rick Elice] is the man who wrote “Jersey Boys.” So I’m very ex­cited about it. I know it’s go­ing to be dif­fer­ent. I think it’s gong to be un­usual, and I think it’s go­ing to be good.

Q: Are you go­ing to be in it?

A: No. There are go­ing to be three Chers in it, but I’m not go­ing to be one of them — ex­cept ev­ery once in a while, for char­ity.

Q: So how are you go­ing to win a Tony? Is it im­por­tant to you to get the EGOT — Emmy-Grammy-Os­car-Tony?

A: No, but I re­ally loved be­ing on Broad­way [in 1982’s “Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean”]. I had a great time on it. The one thing I loved, too, is that you don’t have to carry the whole show by your­self, and you don’t have to per­form for the au­di­ence. So I en­joyed that.

I don’t know how I’m go­ing to win a Tony. I might have to do some­thing else, you know. I’ve got some time left. I’ve got a lit­tle bit of time.

AN­DREW MACPHERSON

Cher be­gins a res­i­dency at MGM Na­tional Harbor in Mary­land on March 17. In ad­di­tion to her new tour, the per­former is work­ing on projects for screen and stage.

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