Teal Wicks’ Broadway debut was in 2011, playing Elphaba in “Wicked.” She then starred in “Jekyll & Hyde” and “Finding Neverland” before tackling her role in “The Cher Show,” which opened in December.
In the musical, the icon is portrayed by a trio of actresses representing various chapters of her life. Wicks’ character, Lady, represents Cher in the era between “The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour” and the end of Sonny (Bono) and Cher’s relationship. There’s also Babe (young Cher) played by Micaela Diamond and Star (“Believe”-era Cher) played by Orange County School of Arts alumna Stephanie J. Block, nominated for a Tony for her role.
Wicks says that the name Lady is a nod to the 1974 song “Dark Lady” and the 1972 album “Foxy Lady.” It was during this period that Cher began working with designer Bob Mackie. “She used to wear bell bottoms and little dresses, but she’s now wearing sparkly gowns and really outlandish outfits. That’s where Lady comes from; it’s a reference to the song and the album but also represents the transformation to being more of a woman versus a young girl.”
Mackie also earned a Tony nod for designing the show’s costumes. “All of us Chers spent many hours in fitting rooms with Bob, and he would unintentionally start to tell us stories about Cher and little moments they had. It was so fun to get stories from him about Cher, because they’ve known each other for so long.”
Wicks became a Cher fan after watching the 1990 film “Mermaids.” “I really loved that movie, and then I finally saw ‘Moonstruck.’ I think my connection with her was more through her acting than anything else.”
She got to meet Cher during the musical’s pre-Broadway run in Chicago. “It was like all of a sudden, I was a superfan. I had never met her in person and I was trying to play her, and now I suddenly had to be composed and keep it together because I’m a professional actress playing her, and I needed her to not think that I was going to freak out!” To prepare for her role, Wicks watched music videos and clips from “The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour.” She also received advice from Cher herself. “A lot of the advice that she gave me was mostly about her relationship with Sonny and what that was like, especially when things started to fall apart. It was really nice to hear her talk and open up about that.”
Despite Cher’s advice and support, Wicks says it was intimidating to step into the star’s shoes. “It was daunting to bring this character to life and get the audience on board and make them believe that we are telling Cher’s story. The way we did that was to try to get to the heart of who she is, the humanity of who she is, all the beauty, all the flaws, and what she wants in life.”
Wicks credits UC Irvine with giving her the assurance that she could move to New York and be on Broadway. “To pursue acting, especially to come to New York, you have to be very confident in who you are, what you do, what your strengths are, also what your weaknesses are. You need to believe that you are unique and special, and people will be excited to work with you and hire you. UCI gave me the environment to really cultivate that, to make a lot of mistakes, find a lot of triumphs, and discover new things about myself.”