Cher and Lauper prove that girls just want to have fun

Linda Krebs

As vendors breeze by graciously carrying tall glasses of champagne garnished with strawberries and illuminated by candlelight, the Madison Square Garden sporting arena is transformed into a world dominated by the eccentric, uncensored, provocative Cher; the ambiance screams diva. The performances for sold-out crowds on Oct. 17 and 18 were the closing nights of the New York leg of the Living Proof Farewell Tour. Reluctant to disappoint her loyal fans and the drag queens who look forward to impersonating her, Cher manages to bid adieu in her own style.

Special guest Cyndi Lauper was invited to open the show with a one-hour set of her own hit songs. Courageously, she even mingled with audience members, encouraging them to get up out of their seats and dance in the aisles. Singing “True Colors” as a tribute to gay pride, Lauper called for the acceptance of differences as streams of colored light flooded the arena. Ending her set on a much lighter note, she sang her trademark song “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” engaging the audience in a sing-a-long.

Moments later, images documenting Cher’s career were projected on white flowing curtains draping the front of the stage. Anticipating a grand entrance from the legendary performer, the audience was on the edge of their seats. As the curtains began rising, a silver-clad Cher descended to the stage on an aerial platform singing U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” Seconds later, she donned a red top hat and matching coat, becoming a ringmaster. Sarcastically, she remarked, “What outfit isn’t complete without a whip,” as she finished the outfit with the perfect accessory.

Announcing that this would be her final tour, she was greeted by a somewhat disgruntled crowd. In her own defense, she said she had been “an evil diva” for 40 years already and that she needed to pave the way for “young girls like Britney and J-Lo.” However, she was intent upon leaving them a tough act to follow and sinisterly shouted, “Take this, you bitches!”

The program certainly was not lacking in costume changes or bizarre scenarios. An assortment of wigs transformed Cher from a blonde to a brunette, to a redhead and back to her black roots. Each song had its own theme, some of which included acrobats suspended from ribbons, Cher riding on a decorative elephant and dancers wearing Mohawk headdresses. In order to give the diva enough time to make her several costume changes, video screens were used to display favorite Cher moments. Featuring their hit song “I Got You Babe,” one montage compiled Sonny and Cher moments, while another showed a young Cher performing with guests Tina Turner and Elton John on her variety show. A compilation of scenes from her acting career served as a segue for the performance of the “Chances Are” theme song, “After All.” It consisted of memorable, dramatic scenes from films such as “Goodtimes,” “Silkwood,” “Mask,” “Witches of Eastwick,” “Moonstruck,” “Mermaids” and “Tea with Mussolini.”

Cher is one of the few performers who has been able to evolve musically with the times and appeal to all age groups, from small children to baby boomers. Her music has progressed from the hippie movement through the disco era to modern dance music. She sang an ensemble of songs from her early years to the present, including “Half-Breed,” “Gypsy, Tramps and Thieves,” “Bang-Bang,” “If I Could Turn Back Time,” “Just Like Jesse James,” “It’s in His Kiss,” “I Found Someone,” “Song for the Lonely” and “Strong Enough.” After an encore, Cher ended the show with “Believe,” leaving not one person seated.

At 56 years old, Cher is still going strong. If she can still parade around in skimpy outfits with plunging necklines and near-thong body stockings while pushing the age of 60, then more power to her! As Cher herself said, when you have “a show so fabulous, you need to Cher it with everyone.”