Thursday, May 15, 2008 | 2 a.m.
Sun Event Calendar
IF YOU GO
Where: The Colosseum at Caesars Palace
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays
Admission: $95 to $250; 731-7110, www.ticketmaster.com
For years now, Cher has been essentially staging her own memorial service (one that she can’t resist showing up for, to see just how much everybody still loves her).
Way back when Celine was still singing in French, Cher pioneered the multimedia circus in the ’80s: Even before her recent rounds of endless “farewell tours,” a Cher show was a barrage of self-celebrating video montages, interrupted occasionally by songs, which were themselves mere excuses for a costume exhibition.
The much-ballyhooed new Cher show at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace is more of the same, writ large. A pageant of new and vintage Bob Mackie costumes set to a greatest-hits concert (several spectacular examples are showcased, museum-style, in glass vitrines in the inner and outer lobbies at the Colosseum). A high-speed video catalog of classic outfit “reveals” receives some of the loudest applause of the evening — even before Cher steps on stage.
As she begins what could easily turn into an eternal reign at the Colosseum (she’s so far engaged for three years, rotating in and out with Bette Midler and Elton John), she provides everything you could want from a Cher show. She makes Cher sounds. She changes costumes and wigs after nearly every number (take your time, we’ll wait). There’s hair-tossing, hip-cocking, lip-licking, arm-crossing, eye-rolling, finger-snapping, skipping and sauntering.
Is it good?
Does it matter?
Unlike almost any other artist, Cher is immune to reviews. The singer-actress-tabloid magnet has taken a small vocal talent, a cluster of highly imitable idiosyncrasies and a few dozen skin-deep pop tunes and tongue deeply in cheek, turned them into a four-decade career.
(And face it, whatever anyone says, you’re going anyway, and all your friends and relatives are going to be begging you to score tickets.)
“This is a great show,” Cher herself assured the 4,300 at Tuesday night’s official press opening. “I don’t mean to be not humble, but it would be a great show even if I wasn’t in it.”
Would Cher lie to you? By the clock, she’s not even onstage for a good 30 minutes of her new, 90-minute Vegas distractaganza.
But no one really minded.
This is as good as Cher gets. No one expects Cher to bring new interpretive shadings or nuance to her hit parade, although on Tuesday her voice was notably deep, dark and strong (with all the attendant whinnies and bleats beloved and mocked by many).
A Cher performance is sui generis, an excuse for fans to bask in her fabulousness. And in a kindness to the “cheap" seats ($95 and up), the onstage action is projected on the Colosseum’s colossal hi-resolution screen — a consideration several other divas have recently shied from.
So everyone can see Cher’s every expression. (All one of them.) She’s curvier, and it looks good on her. And just try to look away from that sculptural oval face, like a Modigliani sphinx — you may not even notice the ever-busy platoon of dancers and projection screens.
For all the hoo-hah surrounding her, the show looks rehearsed but still enjoyably loose and imperfect — as if it’s being performed by human beings. Cher seems relaxed, like she’s playing around with all her big toys. There’s no pretense but plenty of preposterousness (that’s how we like it and Cher knows it).
Cher at 62 is working smart. No sense exhausting herself by racing back and forth across the stage the way she used to in her touring days. She keeps her movements effectively minimal and economical — if she’s not being carted around in a Viking ship or (carefully) descending a spiral staircase, she pretty much stays put. At the center of her corps of 18 dancers, she executes minimal dance movements — a hip twitch, a shoulder dip — that are maximally effective.
The opening segment sees Cher entering her Imperial Period. She first appears as a singing hologram amid a shimmering laser pyramid, then descends from the rafters in an open ski gondola tricked out with an Aztec neon sunburst.
Longtime costumer Mackie outdoes himself in the first quarter, creating a collection of burnished metallics, feathers, short boots and beaded fringes with touches of Thailand and Egypt. In these truly glorious (and still hilarious) getups, Cher is the fierce (and also ferosh) empress of a warlike, perhaps cannibalistic, ancient or futuristic kingdom.
That’s it for the experimentation. From then on, it’s back to candy-colored reruns of the eras of Cher — raven, auburn, blonde, platinum, aquamarine — from her hippy daze through the slick clownishness of “The Sonny and Cher Show,” to her latest reincarnation as a robo-voiced dance club diva.
Quibbles: Cher doesn’t speak enough. “This is the part in the show when I do this really funny monologue,” she said early on, and that was about it.
All the mandatory hits are present — you get “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves,” “Dark Lady,” and “The Way of Love” with the accompanying costumes (including, on “Half-Breed,” that spectacular floor-length feathered headdress and loincloth). And the (mostly-video) tribute to the late Sonny Bono is sweet. But the song selection is otherwise iffy, with why-bother cover versions of Pat Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield” and Dylan-via-The Byrds “All I Really Want To Do.”
There are lots of dead spots during scenic and costume changes, covered with the now overfamiliar array of dancers and dangling acrobats and contortionists doing tame “erotic” maneuvers. These performers get points for smiling, and several deserved the applause they received. But could someone please invent some time-filling between-scenes business that’s not so Cirque-ular?
If anything, Cher’s show doesn’t go far-out enough. This is Vegas — they couldn’t spring for a naval cannon for “If I Could Turn Back Time?” (In an equivalent display of hydraulics and engineering, Cher did sport an age-adjusted version of the infamous black slingshot getup from that video.)
On Tuesday night, after a week of performances for the paying public, the show was still glitchy. After her entrance, two helmeted dance-warriors tried to hide their panic as they tried to unstrap Cher from what she called her “Barbie stand.” Later in the show, sliding doors refused to part, leaving Cher a disembodied voice, while her dancers covered admirably. (Colosseum stagehands should probably do a head count after each show.)
Then again, maybe they should keep the flubs: Cher shrugs them off with a sleepy, slow blink of gold-lidded eyes and a smirk of magisterial amusement. And the audience cheers.
My nominee for the most thankless job in showbiz: that bare-chested guy in silver tights, suspended upside down on a trapeze, while platinum Cher sings “Believe” at the center of a blinding white cloud of feathers and glitter.
Hey dude, someone saw you up there.