CHER

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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

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