Micaela Diamond can thank “Burlesque” for helping to spark her interest in show business at an early age.
“I watched it over 50 times with my mom,” the singer and actress told HuffPost of the 2010 movie musical, which starred Cher and Christina Aguilera. “I paused and rewound all the sexy dances, and I belted the ballad ‘You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me’ over and over again.”
Turns out, Diamond’s adolescent passion for that film may have been prophetic. The 19-year-old is making her Broadway debut in “The Cher Show,” a biomusical that traces Cher’s journey from shy adolescent to global superstar through 35 of her most beloved songs. Taking in the scope of his larger-than-life subject’s personal and professional endeavors, book writer Rick Elice divided the role of Cher between Diamond and two other stars, Stephanie J. Block and Teal Wicks.
As “Babe” Cher, Diamond portrays the diva during her tumultuous childhood up to her 1965 breakthrough hit, “I Got You Babe,” with ex-husband Sonny Bono (Jarrod Spector).
Throughout the remainder of the show, Diamond’s “Babe” Cher interacts with the older versions of herself, changing wigs three times and appearing in some 17 Bob Mackie-designed costumes along the way. Her standout moments include the Act II showstopper “The Beat Goes On,” performed as a Fosse-esque dance number recalling Cher’s rise to movie stardom, as well as a high-energy take on the 2013 single “Woman’s World,” included in the show’s finale mashup.
“I fell madly in love with her and what she represents for generation after generation,” said Diamond, who — like Block and Wicks — has been with “The Cher Show” since its 2018 Chicago debut. “She means something different to so many people, which is cool and also daunting. Everybody comes to the show with an expectation. What’s great is that we have this girl group so that everyone can have their memories represented.”
Though Diamond says Broadway has always been her “ultimate dream,” she was initially reluctant to try out for “The Cher Show.” As it turns out, the audition process was scheduled shortly before she was due to attend Carnegie Mellon University to study musical theater.
“I almost didn’t go because I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of a huge casting office right before I left for college with a shitty Cher impression,” she recalled. “It was scary and I didn’t know what I was doing, but I think that worked to my advantage.”
Diamond remained hesitant even when a casting director pulled her aside during a callback and asked if she’d consider putting her college plans on hold to play the part. “I said, ‘I have to talk to my mom,’” she quipped.
Eventually, Diamond did accept the part — and was fortunate enough to be able to seek advice from Cher, one of the show’s producers, throughout the rehearsal process. The biggest surprise, she said, “was how she views herself versus how other people view her. You see a fierce woman in a studded leather jacket, but she thinks of herself as very feminine, very shy. I think that was an important switch in my performance.”
The role’s physical demands, meanwhile, have been challenging. “The amount of self-care I have is so far beyond what I expected at 19,” she said. “You have to have the self-care of somebody who just had a heart attack at 60 years old. That’s the hardest part of this job.”
Diamond believes that Cher’s story — that of a woman who has persevered in the entertainment industry despite the odds against her — has unique resonance in the Me Too and Times’ Up era. On a personal level, she said, the role “has given me a lot of freedom to be unapologetic in who I am” as a queer woman specifically.
“I’m thrilled we’re one of the only shows right now that’s talking about women’s identity,” she said. “I hope every woman in the audience leaves owning a little more of their power … it’s insane that I’m coming into myself in front of 1,400 people every night. Somebody asked, ‘Do you feel an obligation to use your platform?’ I feel an obligation [only] to be myself, first and foremost, and support the LGBTQ community because I support it, not necessarily because I’m a part of it.”
Though Diamond’s currently focused on “The Cher Show,” she’d like to ultimately study Shakespeare in London, as well as take some on-camera classes to streamline her acting talents for film. Still, she plans to relish her experience as Cher for life.
“It’s been a learning experience filled with sequins and mirrored costumes,” she said.