of her hit songs; outrageous costumes by her lifelong designer, Bob Mackie; three actresses (including Tony nominee Stephanie J. Block) playing her and one little-known fact about the American icon that might surprise even her most ardent fans.
During that first trip to Malibu, Elice was skeptical.
After all, he thought, don’t we all know Cher’s hyperpublicized life? Hardly. Elice was surprised to learn this from Cher: “People think I’m enormously confident because I prance around the stage in a G-string, but it takes courage to do that when you’ve always been shy and afraid of people.”
Musical-goers were stunned, too.
“She seems so un-shy,” said Donna Bach-Heitner, an East Meadow chiropractor who saw a preview performance of “The Cher Show.” “I guess some people just have a certain resilience.”
Such resilience, Elice decided, merited multiple actresses as Cher, who would appear onstage together to support and challenge one another.
Newcomer Micaela Diamond plays hippie Cher, aka “Babe,” from the early “Sonny and Cher” varietyshow era; Teal Wicks is “Lady,” the glam Hollywood Cher; and Block portrays “Star,” the pop-chart diva.
Cher’s ability to reinvent herself intrigued Elice most, perhaps because he was grieving. He realized that, with Cher, he shared a sense of loss, which he could hear in song lyrics such as “Do you believe in life after
love?” He told her that it’s the thing he struggles with every day.
Block faced a different sort of struggle.
Known for her soaring belt and ease at playing strongwilled characters, the actress found herself nervous when first meeting Mackie to discuss her costumes.
“Words like came up, and whether or not underwear could even be worn — and I was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoooa!’”
Block, 46, burst out laughing, saying, “I went in there with the disclaimer, ‘You know my body is not the same as Cher’s.’"
Recalling those early fittings, Mackie was sympathetic: “It’s tricky, putting these clothes on an actress who didn’t grow up wanting to be Cher.”
Block has gradually become more comfortable in the wardrobe, she said, calling it her “coat of armor.”
“I needed to embrace this woman not just from the inside out but the outside in.”
The audience, in turn, embraces each Cher actress.
“It’s amazing. She rises out of the floor, and the audience goes crazy,” said Mackie, noting Block’s entrance in the outrageous gown and mohawk that Cher wore to the 1986 Oscars ceremony.
Block has 28 costume changes in the show — the quickest about 20 seconds, she estimated, with eight people backstage to assist.
The arrival of “The Cher Show” on Broadway marks a 2018 trifecta of sorts for Cher, who has also drawn attention for her work in the “Mamma Mia” sequel and as a Kennedy Center honoree. (The awards ceremony will air Dec. 26 on CBS.)
But the musical’s revelation — that Cher’s flamboyance stems more
from shyness than vanity or chutzpah — might keep people chattering.
Block, recalling how Cher recently joined her in her dressing room, said: “I said, ‘Here’s how I know you — you’re not a ‘but’; you’re an ‘and.’ It’s not that you’re this but that — you’re fearful and yet there’s something wonderfully strong about you. You’re vulnerable and yet totally open. You’re glamour and yet rock ’n’ roll.””
Cher smiled, and grabbed Block’s hand.
“There was kind of this decompression, an exhale — as if to say, ‘You get it,’” Block said. Elice agreed. “You don’t become a strong person because you conquer fear,” he said. “The secret is learning to manage your fear, being able to function as an artist, as a woman, while living with it. She has found her own way to be