Arts theater review

Hit ’80s sitcom resurfaces in live stage adaptation

Cheers Live on Stage features iconic Boston bar

7883 sarah sirota %28carla%29  jillian louis %28diane%29  barry pearl %28coach%29  buzz roddy %28cliff%29 from cheers live on stage. photo 2
Sarah Sirota (Carla), Jillian Louis (Diane), Barry Pearl (Coach), Buzz Roddy (Cliff) from Cheers Live on Stage.
Photo by John Halbach

Cheers Live on Stage

Running Sept. 9 — 18

Citi Performing Arts Center Shubert Theatre,

265 Tremont Street, Boston

Set in a Boston bar, the sitcom Cheers dominated TV in the ’80s as the place to go where “everybody knows your name.” It’s back in a stage adaptation from Citi Performing Arts Center, debuting in Boston before embarking on a nationwide tour.

Featuring the same set of main characters as the sitcom’s first season, the stage adaptation revolves around the antics of the bar’s down-to-earth and womanizing owner, Sam Malone (Grayson Powell) and a new face at the bar, Diane Chambers (Jillian Louis). Diane, an artsy and refined student who has just lost her marriage prospects, takes a waitressing job at the bar, setting off the events on stage.

Attending the show was like being at a family reunion — there was immediate camaraderie between actors and audience. Sitting in the audience, I could certainly feel the nostalgia in the air, the enjoyment of the viewers who have grown up watching the show. It’s a seeming tribute to the live audience atmosphere of the original ’80s sitcom. For example, whenever the heavyset Norm (Paul Vogt), a down-on-his-luck accountant and audience favorite, entered the bar, the audience and cast shouted “Norm!” in endearing welcome. And while I sometimes felt uncomfortable as an outsider at someone else’s reunion, I could understand the sense of belonging in the theatre.

The set production is thrilling — meticulously crafted and exquisitely detailed, the wooden Cheers bar is authentic and homely. The iconic island bar sits in the middle, ringed by quaint red leather bar stools. Pictures, sports memorabilia, and various other knickknacks cover the walls. I was curious to see how they’d do set changes; in fact, it’s as if time sped up — the lights would dim, actors would come and go, and the ambient light would return a different shade for a different time of day.

Cheers is unmistakably Boston. This is reflected in the first act, when a tired Boston tour guide dressed like a Revolutionary War soldier stumbles into the shop with his tour group. Not once, but twice. He tells the poor tourists that this little bar is Harvard Yard, Paul Revere’s house, and just about every historical spot in the area. The jokes serve as a reminder of Boston’s rich culture, and they made me realize how integral Cheers is to that culture.

Attending the performance with a totally clean slate, I found many of the show’s themes difficult to relate to, since  I  had never seen the  television show. The script and humor fell flat at times, at times too jaded for a youthful outsider like myself.

I think I’ll take a trip to the real Cheers bar, which lives on Beacon Street, to immerse myself more fully in the experience. I’m sure I won’t be the only one there trying to glimpse this famous piece of Boston’s past.