‘Cher Show’ at the Schuster Center is a salute to famed singer

Musical chronicles icon during three phases of her career.

Credit: Meredith Mashburn Photography

Credit: Meredith Mashburn Photography

The chance to turn back time is approaching as the 2019 Tony Award-winning musical “The Cher Show” makes its Dayton premiere Feb. 2-4 at the Schuster Center.

This nostalgic trip down memory lane salutes the influential legacy of Cherilyn Sarkisian, better known simply as Cher, who rose to fame in the 1960s opposite her husband Sonny Bono. The show distinctly features three actresses portraying the Academy, Emmy and Grammy Award-winning entertainer at different phases in her life. The tour, presented by Dayton Live, stars Ella Perez as early career Babe, Catherine Ariale as glam pop star Lady, and Morgan Scott as cultural icon Star.

“Cher’s longevity — her sustaining career — is unmatched,” says Perez, who is making her national tour debut. “She’s been relevant since the ‘60s. She’s also always been unapologetically herself. She’s super authentic and real. Unlike other celebrities who whitewash themselves and become a version they think people want to see, Cher has always been herself, which is very unique.”

Credit: Meredith Mashburn Photography

Credit: Meredith Mashburn Photography

The production also features a fantastic fashion parade of legendary designer Bob Mackie’s Tony-winning costumes. Mackie, portrayed on tour by Tyler Pirrung, first designed Cher’s clothes for “The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour” in the 1970s and continued to dress her in a variety of elaborate, eye-popping outfits for decades.

“These costumes are gorgeous,” Perez said. “Cher has been a fashion It Girl forever. Everyone wants to dress like Cher. She’s iconic.”

Perez received her BFA in musical theatre from SUNY Cortland last May. She recalls growing up listening to Cher’s music while on car rides with her dad, who favored the songs of the ’70s and ’80s on the radio.

“I definitely knew more of Cher’s songs than the average person my age,” she said. “My favorite of hers is ‘Hell on Wheels,’ which is extremely underrated. And when I went to college, ‘Believe’ was still playing in the college clubs. ‘Believe’ is still relevant, which speaks to how present Cher is to pop culture. She’s also so quotable on social media. When I got this role, I was able to learn more about her and fall in love with her even more.”

Cher’s inner child

Artistically, Babe represents Cher’s youthful hopefulness and relatable insecurities as she prepared to enter the music industry.

“Babe is the side of Cher that not a lot of people are familiar with,” Perez said. “Cher was very shy and had a lot of stage fright. She knew she wanted to sing and be famous, and she also knew she was destined for something bigger because she came from nothing. Her mother was playfully stern but always told her she was going to be special and be somebody.”



The role also serves as an encouraging presence for Lady and Star, who rely on Babe for motivation.

“Babe is Cher’s inner child throughout the entire show,” Perez adds. “She always comes back to remind the other versions of Cher of her dreams and who she was as a kid. Babe is also funny, spunky and resilient. There is a fire in her that keeps the other Chers going. Whenever the other Chers are feeling down, Babe reminds them who Cher is. The way all the Chers get to interact and help each other is so special and really well done in this show.”

A signature song

One of Perez’s signature scenes is her Act 1 duet “I Got You Babe,” performed with Lorenzo Pugliese as Sonny. She says they studied archival footage of Sonny and Cher singing the song on “Top of the Pops” and enjoy recreating the moment.

“The song is so sweet and special,” Perez says. “Even though ‘Top of the Pops’ was filmed with an audience, Sonny and Cher are singing ‘I Got You Babe’ as if they are the only people in the room. Cher looks at Sonny the whole time because she has such terrible stage fright. It’s so intimate and sweet. In the show, ‘I Got You Babe’ is used as a (transition) in which you see Cher (growing) more confident (and becoming) a full pop star. It’s a really nice sequence. I really love doing it and it’s one of my favorite parts of the show.”

Credit: Meredith Mashburn

Credit: Meredith Mashburn

Notable songs include “Half Breed,” “The Shoop Shoop Song,” “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down),” “Song For The Lonely,” “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves,” “Dark Lady,” “Strong Enough” and “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me.”

“This show has something for everybody — disco, glam, glitter and sparkles,” Perez says. “Even if you’re not a huge Cher fan, you will be when you leave. And what’s better than one Cher? Three!”

How to go

What: “The Cher Show”

When: Feb. 2-4; 8 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: Schuster Center, 1 W. Second St., Dayton

Cost: $29-$119

More info: 937-228-3630 or daytonlive.org

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