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July 23, 2014

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Look out Vegas: Costume queen of seven ages

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Courtesy Photo

Beyond the Sun

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  • Cher on the show's tribute to Sonny.

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  • Cher on pioneering this type of stage show.

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  • Cher on the show's physical demands.

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  • Cher on why she is happy about not touring.

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  • Cher on the idea for her show.

The pop apocalypse is upon us. The worst-kept secret in Las Vegas went public yesterday. So here comes Cher. Again.

Like the periodic return of the locusts. Like taxes. Like the inevitable New Ice Age. Like life after love.

So what can we expect when Cher returns to Vegas?

First thing you’ll notice on or before May 6 — when the 61-year-old singer-actress-icon (not sure of the order there) takes her place alongside Bette and Elton, the current colossi dominating the 4,300-seat Colosseum at Caesars Palace — is an influx of Cher devotees.

The convergence will pretty much turn the Colosseum into the gay Woodstock. For the next two or three years.

And prepare yourself for Big Technology, some really heavy audiovisual artillery (Cher likes big guns, as seen in the 1989 video for “If I Could Turn Back Time,” which showed her tattoos most fearsomely).

Just as we’re coming out of collective cultural (and physical) shock over the Gotterdammerung that was Celine Dion’s “A New Day” epic, here comes Cher at her most recherche — and you’d better believe she’s determined to make the Colosseum into her own personal Thunderdome.

Cher claims she caught her predecessor’s unprecedentedly successful Caesars show only on TV. But it sure sounds like she’s itching to out-diva Dion.

After all, Cher pretty much pioneered the Celine-style sensory overload act. When I saw her “Heart of Stone” tour 20 years ago, Cher was physically onstage for just under an hour. Subtracting at least 15 minutes for video and movie clips (including her Oscar acceptance speech) and about 10 for stage business, the amount of actual singing in the (highly, and most frequently by drag queens) imitable Cher style came out to about 30 minutes.

And prepare to do the Time Warp again: Every Cher show is a greatest-hits trawl through the Seven Ages of Cher, from the Sonny days to the robotic technodrone of “Believe” and beyond. There are more than 50 hits (and more misses) to choose from.

She is, of course, as famous for her tabloid-baiting romances, ever-changing hair, cosmetic reconstructions and Bob Mackie-created stage costumes as for her (Oscar-, Grammy- and Emmy-winning) talents. Case in point: the 30-year-old album cover for “Take Me Home,” which pictures a kneeling Cher glaring insolently in a gold colander-bikini, surmounted by a matching bat-ear headdress. (She blames that particularly delightful lapse in taste on former boyfriend, KISS honcho Gene Simmons.)

So it’s a safe bet that a big percentage of your ticket price and her performance time will be devoted to a vision-blurring array of ready-to-scare stage costumes designed by her old pal Mackie, who created that infamous Goth gown and Mohawk headdress of 1986.

The loudest applause at Cher’s shows has traditionally been reserved for her outrageous outfits. As the saying goes, those who can really sing, do; those who can’t stage a distractaganza with giant video projections, a duet with a late ex-husband and innumerable costume changes. (Cher estimates 14 for the new show.)

The diva’s diva launched her official political machine-P.R. blitz yesterday, via “Good Morning America” and USA Today. But she threw a hometown reporter a bone by calling for a little chat.

Before she gets to spill her big, anticlimactic Vegas news, I’ve just gotta ask: What is she wearing?

“Oh, you’re going to be so disappointed,” she sighs over the phone from Los Angeles. “I’m wearing my sweat pants — kinda khaki colored — and I have metallic blue toenails. And I have on a black T-shirt that buttons way down ...”

If the sweat pants revelation shocked you, you better sit down, kids: Cher also admits to gradually shedding many of her iconic tattoos while she’s been out of the spotlight — and the tabloids — during her brief time off.

A word of advice to the Las Vegas reader: Should you run into Cher while shoe shopping or something, DO NOT use the word “retirement” in front of her.

Tickets for the Colosseum stand went on sale Thursday starting at $95, with a top price of $250. She has signed to do approximately 200 shows over three years, which comes to about four shows a week. Is there anyone left on Earth who hasn’t already seen her? Her seemingly never-ending “Farewell Tour,” which circled the globe from 2002 to 2005 and took in $192.5 million, was the ninth-highest-grossing tour in history.

So just how much of the Cheriatric performer are we going to see on the Colosseum stage in 2008?

“As much as I can show you,” she says and laughs. “Not as much as I used to be able to get away with, but still quite a lot.”

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