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Posted on Wed 22 Jun
West End star Danielle Steers talks about what it’s like to be playing one of music’s biggest icons - and what audiences can expect when new musical The Cher Show comes to town...
“Pretty terrifying,” is how Danielle Steers describes taking on the role of the icon that is Cher. “I don’t think anyone can ever come close to her, but it’s nice to put our own flavour in and try to capture her essence.
“We’re actresses at the end of the day, so we’re not trying to be a caricature, we’re just honouring the legend.”
Born in Yorkshire, Danielle is known to West End audiences for originating the role of Zahara in Bat Out Of Hell: The Musical and, more recently, for her portrayal of Catherine Parr in award-winning musical SIX.
Now she’s turning back time as she takes on the role of Cher in the first UK tour of The Cher Show, a high-energy celebration of the life and times of the Goddess of Pop.
Premiering in Chicago in 2018, the hit musical tells the story of Cher’s meteoric rise to fame - from meeting Sonny Bono and the breakdown of their marriage, to her many musical comebacks and Hollywood successes - all of which is recounted with a generous side-order of glitter, glamour and wit.
But Danielle isn’t the only Cher in the show. Fellow West End performers Millie O’Connell and Debbie Kurup play ‘Babe’ and ‘Star’ respectively. Babe is young Cher; Star, the fully formed icon. Danielle’s version - ‘Lady’ - is Cher of the 1970s, the decade which saw her enjoy US number-one hits with Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves, Half-Breed and Dark Lady.
“Lady starts with Cher’s big rise to fame and ends with her divorce from Sonny, so I get quite a meaty part of the show with lots of emotion, which is great to work with.”
Behind the scenes, The Cher Show is blessed with some top-notch creative talent. The musical is written by Tony Award-winning Rick Elice - who also penned Jersey Boys - and is directed and choreographed by former Strictly stars Arlene Phillips and Oti Mabuse respectively.
Award-winning costume designer Gabriella Slade - who, like Danielle, worked on SIX - has also brought her talent to the show.
“Gabriella’s incredible. She’s taken the basis of those iconic Bob Mackie costumes and put her own spin on them. They weigh a ton because they’re all hand-beaded, but they’re a joy to wear, and the detailing on them is just stunning.”
Fashion designer Bob Mackie first dressed Cher in 1967 and still works with her to this day. His extravagant looks have helped turn her into a fashion icon.
As well as the costumes, there’s also, of course, a long list of Cher smash hits to enjoy - 35 to be precise - including If I Could Turn Back Time, Strong Enough, I Got You Babe and Believe.
And though she admits it’s hard to choose, Danielle does have a favourite number.
“It comes at the end of act one, when the three Chers sing Song For The Lonely. It’s a more recent song of hers, but it’s a really special moment for me, where I always think how lucky I am to get to do this show every night.”
With that being said, the role isn’t without its challenges.
“There’s a fine line between honouring Cher and becoming a caricature. There are moments when we can be a little over the top, but there are also a lot of serious moments that pull it back ever so slightly.
“I think the beautiful thing about the three of us is that we all present different aspects of Cher, whether it be the voice, the acting, the way she walks. If you had three people who were doing an outright impersonation, it would distract from the story, and we really want the story to shine through.”
And Cher’s story is certainly a remarkable one, from dropping out of school and leaving home at 16, through the dark days of financial struggle and facing up to being a woman in a man’s world, to her eventual arrival in the spotlight of superstardom.
But The Cher Show reveals aspects of its subject’s life that might surprise the audience.
“She’s been through some real highs and lows, but I think the most surprising thing is how vulnerable she is. People see her as this megastar on stage, but actually she’s painfully shy.”
Cher’s vulnerability is something to which Danielle can definitely relate.
“I’m a bit of an introvert too, so I do see myself in her. People find that hard to believe because I act, sing and dance, but actually, when I’m not on stage, all I want is to be at home reading a book.
“But I think we can all relate to Cher at some point, because she’s been through so much.”
Danielle promises the show will have audiences dancing in the aisles at the end, courtesy of a curtain-call megamix of Cher’s greatest hits.
“I hope the audience feels joyful and uplifted. And I hope they can feel the ‘girl power’ and know that they can go out there, face the world and do things they were previously too scared to do.
“Ultimately, we just want everyone to have an amazing time and take a little bit of fearlessness away with them.”
The Cher Show plays Birmingham Hippodrome from 2 to 6 August; Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, 30 August to 3 September and Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, from 18 to 22 October.
Posted on Mon 27 Jun