Fashion designer Bob Mackie has dressed a multitude of Hollywood icons over the years and is now bringing his costumes to life on the Chicago stage for The Cher Show.
He was worked with Cher for decades in TV specials and performances, taking home an Emmy for the Believe concert tour. He designed the costumes for the 60th Annual Academy Awards, which earned him another Emmy nomination, and designed the gown Cher wore to accept her Best Actress Oscar for Moonstruck.
He worked was on television for 20 straight years and was vital to The Carol Burnett Show during its 11 year old run. He also handled the costumes on the spinoff Mama's Family afterwards. This is not his first stint in a Broadway show as he worked with Burnett for Moon Over Buffalo and Putting It Together on those past productions.
He won nine Emmy Awards for his designs and was nominated 32 times. Mackie was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 2002. He wrote a book called Unmistakably Mackie in 1999. His empire expanded to furniture, dinnerware, Barbie dolls and more.
Not only involved as the costume designer, the out and proud talent is also portrayed as a character in The Cher Show, along with Cher's late ex-husbands Sonny Bono and Gregg Allman. Tony nominee Emily Skinner plays Cher's mom, Georgia Holt. With six decades of work it takes three women, Stephanie J. Block, Teal Weaks, and Micaela Diamond, to portray the icon over the course of the brand-new jukebox musical with her life shown in a variety show style format. After a major Chicago debut and retooling, the plan is to move to New York's Neil Simon Theatre in the fall.
The "sultan of sequins" sat down during a press conference briefly to discuss the show.
Windy City Times: Where did you first meet Cher?
Bob Mackie: When she was a guest on The Carol Burnett Show in 1967. She was 21 years old.
WCT: Did you two just hit it off?
BM: We did! I was kind of dreading it because in all of those pictures with Sonny she looked sullen being next to him. Turns out she was 5'6" and a skinny little gorgeous girl.
WCT: Was she ever difficult to work with?
BM: No. She was always late to her fittings, but she wasn't difficult.
WCT: How did you decide what costumes would go in to The Cher Show?
BM: It depended on the script really. We cover a lot of territory. We started before I knew her as a little girl, like a 5 or 6 year old. It doesn't last very long and gets right into teen years. She was a teenager when her and Sonny became an act.
WCT: So, you are also designing for her in the show when she wasn't glamorous?
BM: Yeah, but she always had style and ideas about what she thought was really cool.
WCT: I went downstairs and there are seamstresses working feverishly working on sewing machines everywhere. Are the designs completed?
BM: Yes. They are already designed, it just has to get finished.
WCT: It's crunch time!
BM: There are a lot of costumes in the show.
WCT: The Oscar outfit will be included in The Cher Show?
BM: Yes, the Oscar outfits that she wore are exactly how they were then, so that will be interesting.
WCT: I heard Cher has been very involved with the process.
BM: She has been very involved, although she hasn't seen what I am going to be doing yet, so we shall see…
WCT: The pressure is on. You are here for the entire run?
BM: Pretty much the entire run at least until a few days after opening.
WCT: The Cher Show is going on to New York?
BM: That is the plan. I think it gets there by November in New York.
WCT: The list of people you have designed for is long such as Bette Midler, Liza Minnelli, Tina Turner and RuPaul.
BM: It is crazy, isn't it? I'm really old. I have been doing it forever.
WCT: Has there been any divas?
BM: Sure, but I'm not telling you. When you are with someone and they don't look good in the clothes sometimes they aren't easy, but I won't mention any names.
With a celebrity you have to design them in what people want to see, especially if it is onstage. I just try to enhance what has already been established. You don't try to make them into someone else, unless it's a character.
WCT: Speaking of characters, is Carol Burnett coming to see The Cher Show while she's in Chicago?
BM: Yes. She is lovely, lovely, lovely. I was really lucky to be in the room with her all of those years. I've had some really good clients, but that is a special one for sure.
WCT: You designed a Bob Mackie cologne?
BM: I think it's still out there. It was hot for awhile, then the company closed, and they sold it. I don't know who owns it now.
WCT: I saw you designed rugs, also.
BM: I did rugs for a while, then lamps. I have an evening separates line that is about to come out. We haven't announced it yet, but it's happening.
WCT: Was there anyone that you wanted to design for but didn't get a chance to? Maybe Audrey Hepburn?
BM: Audrey Hepburn, exactly, but maybe an easy choice because she looked good in everything; She was so beautiful and gorgeous. As a young boy I always thought Marilyn Monroe was so beautiful and so sexy. I would then look over at Audrey Hepburn and think, "I like her too!" I couldn't figure out who I liked more because, between the two, they were two opposites, like they came from different planets almost. Then I realized it was perfectly fine and what made them special. They were unique in their own way and successful. Everyone tried to be Marilyn, but no one succeeded.
WCT: I was made fun of for playing with dolls as a child, but aren't these your dolls to dress up?
BM: Cher always said, "I'm Bob's Barbie doll."
WCT: Did she ever say it was too much?
BM: She said, "Less fabric, more beads!" It is just the way she is. Halloween is her favorite holiday.
WCT: Anything else you want to say about The Cher Show?
BM: If you are a Cher fan you will have a good time. The singing is amazing. Their voices are just breathtaking. When you hear those three young women you won't believe that they can open their mouths and sing like that.
The Cher Show turns back time now through Sunday, July 15, at Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St.; visit BroadwayInChicago.com .
Related coverage at www.windycitymediagroup.com/lgbt/THEATER-The-Cher-Show-takes-center-stage/63257.html .