Cher's longtime collaborator Bob Mackie shines onstage in the icon's new Broadway bio-musical.
Bob Mackie’s hits include this sequin-studded, feathered “nude” dress Cher wore to the 1974 Met Gala, which he said created “a lot of hullaballoo.” Afterward, “I got a lot of calls from performers wanting something ‘like Cher wears’ because it got a lot of attention.”
When Cher shimmied onto the set of her hit early-’70s variety show, The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, she and her husband shared stardom with her dramatically embellished, barely-there costumes. Cher’s confidence and the program’s costume designer, Bob Mackie, were to credit for her rise to fashion icon. And in the decades that followed, as Cher evolved from singer to comedian to Academy Award-winning actress to activist, Mackie has been by her side.
“Cher has never followed fashion because she doesn’t want to look like everyone else,” Mackie explains before our Gotham magazine dinner in his honor at midtown institution The Lambs Club. “All she said at the beginning is, ‘I don’t want to look like a housewife in a gown.’ I said, ‘I don’t want you to either!’”
For The Cher Show, debuting this month on Broadway, the 79-year-old designer dreams up a fresh wardrobe of over-the-top ensembles for a trio of actresses replaying her life’s illustrious chapters: the kid starting out, the glam pop star and the icon. Co-produced by Cher, the bio-musical tells the story behind the headlines to her hits.
Mackie’s sketches for The Cher Show on Broadway.
“It’s pretty spectacular what the costumes do to you in this show,” says 19-year-old actress Micaela Diamond, who plays Cher in her coming-of-age hippie years during the 1960s. “Quick changes are insane in original Bob Mackies, but it’s all worth it because the audience goes crazy for them,” says Diamond. “Cher became famous during a time when women finally felt free to own their sexy. Her clothes were so symbolic of that. Cher says it in the show; she was willing to wear nothing—both a sign of her empowerment and appreciation for Mackie’s artwork.”
Actress Teal Wicks plays Cher during the ’70s when Mackie’s elaborate sequin gowns were nearly stealing the show. “With Bob’s outfits, only certain things can move,” says Wicks, who still manages to sashay and high-kick in the revealing designs. “When I wear them, instantly I have her posture, walk and gestures.”
The designer gets his much-deserved due from actor Michael Berresse, who plays Mackie in the musical. “As a kid growing up in the Midwest during the ’70s, Bob Mackie wasn’t a name; it was more of a magic incantation, like abracadabra,” says Berresse. “The fact that I’m playing him is surreal.”