Las Vegas owes Cher a collective thanks for singing on the Strip during a recession, filling up 4,200 seats on slow Tuesday nights in January.
"In Cher We Trust" indeed. It's no stretch of a metaphor when confetti rains down during the "Believe" finale, and some folks are able to grab a mock "million dollar" bill bearing the pop legend's image. If ever there were a production you could take to the bank, it was this one's arrival in May 2008.
But as the ageless star rides that chariot down to the stage for the last time Feb. 5, only those with direct ties to the promoter should try to stop her. She's done enough. Let her go. These superstar vehicles never seem as exciting when they leave as they did when they arrived, and this one wasn't exactly full of new ideas when it opened. It's time to move on.
Look at what else opened during Cher's residency. "Viva Elvis" is an Elvis show without Elvis, which makes us view her final Colosseum stint with a newly suspicious eye: How much, gulp, do they really need Cher to keep this one going?
One thing more evident to repeat customers is how much the star isn't onstage. It's halfway to "Viva Cher" already, if you add up all the time spent on movie clips and the cast performing without her.
With Cirque's Elvis and upcoming Michael Jackson tributes, there's an obvious excuse for the gymnastics and dance numbers. With a still-living Cher, they exist to cover costume changes. Whether that's a fair trade-off may be the great divide, the barometer to help you decide if you should see this one before it leaves town.
Fans could argue it's all about fabulous, that the parade of Bob Mackie-designed outfits are stars in their own right. The costumes make her Cher. Always have. "When Sonny and I started out, we were strange looking," she reminds the crowd of bobcat vests and Eskimo boots, saying Sonny Bono's broken nose came in defense of his fashion choices (one of several moments meant to restore Sonny to the favor of Cher fans).
So a medley of old hits is also a medley of old costumes. "I go in one way and I come out younger," she says in the second and last time she speaks to the audience. The gypsy dancers and hand-balancing acrobats to set up "Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves" run about equal to the time spent actually performing the song -- around two minutes -- and that allotting for a "Dark Lady" quote, too.
It's fun for a while. The old-movie street scene right out of "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour" lets Cher sing Bob Seger in drag, as a purple-sequined zoot-suit dude, her wig and mustache looking like the Guy Fawkes mask in "V for Vendetta."
On the other half of this divide, ticket-buyers might expect a more personal connection than sequins and nostalgic video clips. That would be what the last half-hour of this spectacle is missing, after the costume parade loses its novelty and the show drifts to casually cover songs that are part of Cher's past, but equally associated with others: Marc Cohn's "Walking in Memphis," Nazareth's "Love Hurts" and the "After All" duet she cut with Peter Cetera.
In their days at the Colosseum, Celine Dion and Elton John at least made minor alterations to acknowledge new product in the outside world. One thing everyone seems to like about the "Burlesque" movie is Cher's knock-down anthem, "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me." But if you want to hear it, you'll have to find a screen where it's still playing.
At least you will go away respecting the 46-year longevity of a star wearing skimpy outfits months before she reaches the standard retirement age (on May 20). For the 10 minutes she talks to you at the beginning, she is the real, irrepressible deal. And you'll be glad you shared those moments, especially if some day the show decides to go on without her.