Arts & EntertainmentStage

Ella Perez plays Cher in the TUTS’ April Production of The Cher Show

  Ella Perez

Calling all gypsies, tramps, and thieves: Theatre Under the Stars is bringing The Cher Show to Houston’s Hobby Center in April. Featuring 35 hit songs and Tony Award-winning recreations of every stunning Bob Mackie gown that Cher wore, this musical tells the story of the unstoppable diva’s six-decade career. Recent SUNY Cortland graduate Ella Perez, starring as Babe, the youngest of three versions of Cher in the show, talks about the musical and the legacy of the beloved songstress.

Perez, 23, is excited to tell Cher’s story onstage, and finds a kinship with her iteration of the American legend. “I love Babe. She’s so spunky, charismatic, and has such big dreams. It’s definitely something that I can relate to,” Perez notes. “I play her from being a first-grader up until her early 20s, and I see a lot of myself in her. She always wanted to be something special when she grew up. She didn’t know if she wanted to sing, act, or just be a famous personality. That was something that I also always wanted.”

Of course, Perez being a proud bisexual doesn’t hurt, either. Cher has only publicly identified as straight, but hinted at potential queerness during a 2002 interview with The Advocate when she famously said, “Do I sleep with women? Occasionally.”

Playing an icon, especially one who came of age in a vastly different era, is a daunting task that Perez was more than happy to tackle. “They supplied us with a lot of research material from her book, and things like that,” admits Perez. But the young actress also delved into her own research, as well. “I’ve watched a lot of Cher’s videos. There are some really nice videos of her from the ‘60s when she is the age that I’m playing, and I [spent time] picking up on her mannerisms and channeling the sound that she had at that time.”

Ella Perez as Babe and Lorenzo Pugliese as Sonny in The Cher Show (Images by Meredith Mashburn Photography)

Regarding Cher’s voice, there is a very specific tonality and intonation that people remember when they think of her. But Perez’s Babe predates that iconic and often imitated vocal quality. “She didn’t really sound like that back then,” Perez explains. “She still had this very rich contralto voice, but I wanted to find a happy medium between the Cher voice that we all know and how she actually sounded in the ‘60s. The old footage is so fascinating to watch, and it really helped me a lot.”

The Cher Show is without a doubt a love letter to Cher that explores every aspect of the star’s enduring relevance. “I think the most inspiring thing about her is her longevity and her ability to almost shape-shift. She has adapted to every music trend, remained relevant, and has reinvented herself [multiple times] to keep herself relevant since the ‘60s,” states Perez. “She has been around forever, and she’s not going anywhere, either. She was still on the top of the charts with her Christmas album that she just put out. It’s so incredible to see a self-made woman like that. She came from nothing and built this empire herself. It would be very easy for her to get caught up in it all and just become a whitewashed version of herself. But she has always been so real and very authentic. People pick up on that, and that’s why she’s stayed relevant for this long.”

“There’s rainbows, sparkles, glitter, and skin showing! It’s really special, and you can tell that there’s gay influence in there for sure, honey!” —Ella Perez

Beyond identifying with Cher’s authenticity, queer audiences will delight in many things that The Cher Show has to offer. “There are definitely gay themes in there, and I think the whole show is like a gay dream,” Perez explains. “There’s rainbows, sparkles, glitter, and skin showing! It’s really special, and you can tell that there’s gay influence in there for sure, honey!”

Perez enthusiastically describes how honored she feels to portray Cher. “When do you ever get to pretend to be a diva pop star onstage every single day for your job? It’s really magical, honestly, and it’s so much fun!”

Catherine Ariale as Lady, Morgan Scott as Star, and Ella Perez as Babe in The Cher Show 

Yet, Perez doesn’t think her performance, or that of the other two actresses playing Cher, is the main attraction. “I always love to mention how incredible our ensemble is,” she says. “They are just the sweetest, kindest, and most talented souls. They add so much love, energy, and generosity to the stage with everything that they do. We literally wouldn’t be able to do it without them.”

WHAT: The Cher Show
WHEN: April 16–28
WHERE: Hobby Center for the Performing Arts
INFO: or call 713-558-8887


David Clarke

David Clarke is a freelance writer contributing arts, entertainment, and culture stories to OutSmart.
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