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Listen: The Pioneering Feminism of Cher

Cher has been famous for so long, it’s tempting to think there’s nothing new to know about her. But on the latest episode of “Stagecraft,” Variety‘s theater podcast, director Jason Moore and writer Rick Elice — two of the lead creators behind Broadway’s “The Cher Show” — found plenty to unpack in getting to know the superstar.

For Elice, the Tony-winning book writer of “Jersey Boys,” seeing the arc of Cher’s life play out onstage made him realize that she was, “in several important senses, something of a pioneer”: a career woman juggling a busy professional life, and all the pressures of being the family provider, with being a mother. “Finding that balance is something that Cher did long before it was even the point of the feminist movement,” Elice added. “She was really at the vanguard of that, because she became famous just about the same time that over here, on this coast, Betty Friedan was talking about ‘The Feminine Mystique.’ Cher sort of is the Feminine Mystique, in a way.”

“We talk about her as a survivor, and [in terms of] reinvention, which implies all this forethought,” added Moore, who’s directed Broadway musicals including “Avenue Q” and films like “Pitch Perfect.” “She describes her life like being on a bumper car, which is sort of instinctual. She didn’t plan everything, but what she always planned was being authentic to herself.”

Fifty-five years of the diva’s life play out in two and half hours of stage time — along with 635 costumes, six million feathers, and a costume change every 35 seconds. Three different actresses play the superstar, and each of them had to strike the right balance to evoke Cher and her mannerisms without coming off as an impersonator.

“We added a few hair flips; we added a little bit of tongue; we had to pull some back because it was too much,” Moore recalled. “We did discover it made a big difference to put the wigs on the women. It’s because of the hair flip. That straight hair makes people behave very differently!”

New episodes of “Stagecraft” are available every Tuesday. Download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on iTunesStitcher, or anywhere finer podcasts are dispensed. Find past episodes here and on Apple Podcasts.

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