“For every real-life person that gets portrayed in a show, it’s not a documentary, it’s an interpretation,” says Jason Moore, director of Broadway’s biographical new musical “The Cher Show.” “It’s our interpretation,” he clarifies.
With his “Cher Show,” it’s all in the name. The rousing musical that utilizes the eponymous diva’s songbook to tell the story of her life opens Dec. 3 at the Neil Simon Theatre. But with a name like Cher’s, casting a single actor to fill her shoes was a nonstarter, which is why the show has enlisted three women to depict the icon at three distinct points in her life and career.
“Each actress, each of the versions of Cher, has a challenge to overcome—whether it be shyness or the ability to stand alone without a man or the ability to confront your own fear as the audiences come and go—so that we are able to portray an externalized internal character,” Moore says. “That’s what the three-Cher combination allows us to do: externalize inner thoughts, which is essentially what musical theater is, externalizing your inner thoughts musically.”
Scouting those three actors to play the sensation was, understandably, no easy feat. “To find a triple threat who also has the look and charisma and star quality that Cher undeniably has was tricky,” Moore admits. But fortunately for the creative team and audiences alike, Micaela Diamond, Teal Wicks, and Stephanie J. Block were cast in ascending order as youngest to most senior incarnation.
“We’re portraying Cher but ultimately, it’s Stephanie J. Block that you’re watching. [The actors] are the heart and soul in the characters,” says Moore, who was heavily involved in the casting process. “So in this case, the actor needs to have a strong degree of honesty to show who they are so that when they’re wearing a Cher wig, or a big costume, their humanity comes through. There’s the authenticity of portraying a character and that always comes from the actor.”
That word, “authenticity,” is one Moore values and seeks out from actors above all else—Cher or otherwise. “Authenticity is required to [make the audience] feel, ‘Oh, that’s a human and I can connect to them even if they’re from a different time period or it’s highly theatrical, and that’s true for any show,” he says. “That’s ultimately at the heart of what the job of the actor is: portray authenticity in a highly inauthentic situation.”
By his account, that is even more true of auditions, which could be argued as the environment least conducive to sincerity. “The challenge of the audition is: How do you maintain who you are in this highly unusual and, one may say, torturous situation where you have to walk into a room full of people and decide how to be authentic in an inauthentic situation?” he poses. ”But we certainly try to create a situation where people can be authentic if they’re able to be, and hopefully relax to do just that.”
And that authenticity is not just paramount in theater, clarifies Moore, who is best-known for directing the “Pitch Perfect” musical film series.
“From an acting stand point, [on-camera and stage acting] is the same at its core, in the sense of trying to be authentic—it’s just the size at which you are authentic,” he says. “In film, you can have the flicker of your eyelids be a lot, whereas in a 2,000-seat house for a musical, a big gesture of your hand does the same thing. It’s trying to figure out how the same truth comes forward in the technical manifestation of each form.”
And with that meditation, it all comes back to our singular hero. “There’s always a different style that you’re putting on top of the basic truth,” Moore says, speaking to technicality. “And that’s why Cher—with no training—could be a fantastic movie actress: because her style was always authentic to the moment.”
Inspired? Check out Backstage’s theater audition listings!