By MIKE WEATHERFORD
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
They call this one “Classic Cher” because why? “Hauled Out of the Storage Warehouse” isn’t quite punchy enough for a billboard?
It would be fitting, though, for anyone who saw the pop icon’s Caesars Palace show from 2008 to 2011 and really missed that motorized gondola.
But “Classic Cher” is genuinely a good name for the 70-year-old’s victory lap at the new Park Theater. It means the show is everything you expect, and nothing new that you shouldn’t.
One song sums it up: the power ballad “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me” from the “Burlesque” movie. You can guess from the title it could be a big moment, that point where other legends would lean into an anthem that’s thematic and resonant and knock it out of the park.
But here, you watch Cher’s video of that song on the giant rear screen. Why? Because she’s busy changing costumes, getting ready for the next production number.
And that’s the real classic Cher: a medley of other “Burlesque” songs done as a “Cabaret” knockoff, with dancers in derbies, fishnets and garters, a sexier “Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour.”
Cher leans back, not in. She tells us her shyness made her insist on Sonny Bono as equal stage foil once he “saw the raw talent and started to do the clay thing.” Ever since she went solo, it’s been a game of distraction, from the floor-length American-Indian headdress to the black thigh boots.
So it’s one more time around the nostalgia block. The new show is gorgeous but also rote and cobbled together from the Colosseum run and 2014’s “Dressed to Kill” tour.
There’s the grand entry in a descending “birdcage.” The chatty monologue to drive home the fascinating contrast between the down-to-earth star and her over-the-top fashion parade of Bob Mackie costumes.
(One new element that doesn’t seem likely to survive? An attempt at a question-and-answer session. The “questions” were requests to come over for dinner, speak to a school class, etc.)
There’s the obligatory tribute to the late Sonny Bono, looming larger than ever on a giant vertical screen to sing “I Got You Babe” with the tiny human on the ground. The “Cirque du Cher” numbers where dancers and aerialists buy time for costume changes. The (prop) elephant, the gondola, the cheeky black leather for “If I Could Turn Back Time.”
The major new ingredient is video projections, almost three-dimensional on the rear stage, and picture-framing the stage. Balcony fans might still be surprised at how few times the giant screens show close-ups of the star.
A five-piece band kept the songs crunchier and more convincingly live than you will hear at a Britney Spears or Jennifer Lopez show. So did Cher’s voice. She even warned the opening-night crowd it had been a late night and full day of rehearsals.
True-blue fans will appreciate ditching some of the U2 and Pat Benatar covers to make room for more of her own songs, like the 1979 disco hit “Take Me Home” and the 2013 EDM-flavored opener, “Woman’s World.”
Cher sang at Caesars Palace back when “Take Me Home” was on the radio, part of a showroom rotation that included Sammy Davis Jr., Andy Williams and Frank Sinatra. Now, the “Believe” finale drives home just how much this show is still tied to a Las Vegas that was all about riding on past glories.
Some fans stand in rapture, as she victory-walks the lip of the stage, hands prayer-pressed, basking in a shared adulation. Others head up the aisles so they won’t get stuck when the house lights come up, clearly ready to step back into the present.