‘Cheers Live on stage’: If you liked the TV show…
BOSTON – A critic’s full disclosure: I didn’t have the highest of expectations for the national touring production of “Cheers Live on Stage” at the Citi Performing Arts Center Shubert Theatre.
The show proved a mild surprise, even if some members of the cast stumble a bit in replicating their iconic characters. The result is a slick, pleasant two hours, and if you’re a fan of the TV show you shouldn’t be disappointed.
“Cheers Live on Stage” doesn’t actually hue to traditional theatrical rules, especially in its structure.
The audience at the Shubert had the feel of taping a live TV show instead of attending a theatrical performance; each of the major characters was greeted warmly upon his/her entrance; it was a bit disconcerting to hear virtually the entire audience shout “Norm” when actor Paul Vogt entered as accountant Norm Peterson. My companion, on the other hand, thought it a nice touch.
You’ll even recognize some of his one-liners transferred directly from the show: “What’s shaking, Norm?” “All four cheeks and a couple of chins.”
The “Cheers” resume includes the show being named one of TV Guide’s “50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time,” airing for 11 seasons between 1982 and 1993 and garnering top 10 ratings for seven of its 11 seasons, often earning the No. 1 ranking in the weekly Nielsens ratings. The show won 26 Emmy Awards and 4 Golden Globe Awards.
Tom Kershaw, the owner of the Bull & Finch Pub at the Hampshire House on Beacon Street that inspired “Cheers,”appeared to be hosting a huge cadre of people Tuesday night sitting in front row seats that allowed them to actually go up on stage and partake of the working bar that is part of the set, which appears to be a fully realized copy of the TV set of the show by designer Michael Carnahan.
The experience of the TV show includes not only the iconic opening theme, but a series of vignettes that are roughly the length of a half-hour TV sitcom, as the producers have chosen .to base the production on the first year of the series. The result: no Woody, Rebecca, Frasier Crane or Lillith, if you’re looking for them.
Grayson Powell makes for a tall and handsome Sam Malone, while Jillian Louis does a fine job channeling the voice and mannerisms of Shelley Long as the overeducated but otherwise underqualified waitress Diane Chambers. The two leads also do a decent job of portraying the unusual chemistry between the two opposites who are somehow attracted.
Barry Pearl makes “Coach” Ernie Pantusso an avuncular sort with a tendency towards Norm Crosby-like malapropisms. Kudos to Sarah Sirota, who brings the required spice and spunk as sassy vertically-challenged waitress Carla Tortelli, Diane’s constant nemesis.
Buzz Roddy is a rather bland Cliff Claven and Vogt gets off Norm,’s one-liners capably, but fans of George Wendt’s portrayal may be a bit let down.
Is it great theater? Probably not. But maybe what you’re looking for is a nostalgic return to a TV series that you enjoyed, the place where everybody knew your name. If that’s the case, you’ll be willing to overlook its shortcomings.
The Stageworks Media and Troika Entertainment production of “Cheers Live on Stage.” Directed by Matt Lenz. Adapted for the stage by Erik Forrest Jackson. Other credits: Michael Carnahan (Scenic Designer), Michael McDonald (Costume Designer), and Philip S. Rosenberg (Lighting Designer). At the Citi Performing Arts Center Shubert Theatre, 265 Tremont St., Boston, Through Sunday, Sept. 18. citicenter.org.