Hollywood Flashback: Cher First Starred on Broadway in 1982

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Cher, then 35, was backstage on 'Jimmy Dean's' opening night with her children Elijah Blue (left) and Chastity (now Chaz) Bono.

The singer, whose life is previewed onstage in 'The Cher Show' opening Dec. 3, debuted on the Great White Way with 'Come Back to the 5 and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean,' which ran for 52 performances: "She made the character her own."

Cher, whose life is portrayed in The Cher Show — now in previews on Broadway and opening Dec. 3 — had her own Broadway debut when she was directed by Robert Altman in Come Back to the 5 and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, which ran for 52 performances in 1982.

"I was a little taken aback when Cher's name was suggested, as she'd never been in a stage production before and Altman had never directed a play, either," recalls playwright Ed Graczyk. "I thought, 'This is going to be interesting.' But at the first reading, she was wonderful and so relaxed. She made the character her own and in doing so brought more to it than even I had."

Jimmy Dean was not quite as bombastic as her new musical, whose website promises "35 smash hits, six decades of stardom, two rock-star husbands, a Grammy, an Oscar, an Emmy and enough Bob Mackie gowns to cause a sequins shortage in New York City."

By comparison, Jimmy Dean had a group of middle-aged women gathering in a Woolworth's store in West Texas for the 20th reunion of their James Dean fan club. When Altman adapted the play to film, The Hollywood Reporter predicted it would "find a skimpy acceptance from moviegoers." (It made $840,000 — $2.2 million today.)

But it brought Cher a Golden Globe nomination. Two years later, she had an Oscar nom for Silkwood and in 1988 won an Oscar for Moonstruck.

This story first appeared in the Nov. 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.