Meet Teen Who Put College on Hold to Play Cher on Broadway

inside edition
inside edition

Micaela Diamond, 19, put college on hold to play Cher on Broadway.

One of the first things 19-year-old Micaela Diamond does when she wakes up is make breakfast for her and her mom in their tiny Manhattan apartment.

Avocado, egg, a little everything bagel seasoning and a squeeze of lime juice, all on a slice of cinnamon raisin toast.

“When Micaela makes breakfast for us, it reminds me how lucky I am to have a friendship with her,” mom Karen Diamond shares of the relationship she has with her daughter, who plays Babe, the youngest incarnation of the singer Cher in the Broadway musical "The Cher Show."

"That was always the dream I had for my kid."

Dreams of Stardom

Originally from Margate, New Jersey, Micaela has been living in New York City with her mom since she was 10. “I don't look forward to the day she moves out because we get along so well,” Karen told of their relationship. “But I know it will eventually happen.”

And that time seemed nearly upon them two summers ago, when Micaela was packing for college at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania. But then, just two days before she was set to head off, she got a call that stopped her in her tracks: She'd been offered the role of a lifetime in "The Cher Show."

“I almost didn't go to my initial audition, I didn't want to embarrass myself in front of a huge casting office right before I was about to leave for college,” Micaela said.

Thankfully, she did.

After landing the role, Micaela said she experienced a moment of panic.

Taken by Leigh Scheps,

"I was over the moon, but I had no idea what my life was going to be like and I am such a planner," Micaela said. "I'd been working my whole life for this. [Broadway] was supposed to be the outcome of college, so I was excited not to go and to be in the real world, but [also] completely petrified."

"The Cher Show" isn’t Micaela’s first professional gig. Last Easter, she was Sara Bareilles’ understudy in NBC’s live telecast of "Jesus Christ Superstar."

But she's always wanted to see her name in lights on a Broadway marquee since she was a little girl.

“We saw 'Beauty and the Beast’ [when she was 7]," Karen recalled. "She said, ‘Mom, you don't get it, but now I'm going to tell you, that's the kind of stage that I want.’

"That's when I knew that I better follow her directions."

Playing an Icon

“When I first wake up I try and meditate actually for 15 minutes,” Micaela told one day in early April. Dressed in an oversized Led Zeppelin T-shirt and pajama pants, Micaela then headed to her small kitchen to make breakfast before she and her mom got comfy on the couch to dig into their eggs.

“This morning she was reading to me because we both love Tom Stoppard,” Karen said.

“I was reading all of the characters, putting them in different accents to make them not sound all the same,” Micaela chimed in.

Special mementos collected over the years adorn the walls of Micaela's bedroom. Photos of Joni Mitchell and 1949’s opening night of "South Pacific," as well as a photo of her best friend Rihanna (not to be confused with the singer) and a random page from a notebook that features a paraphrased Stoppard quote — “Laughter is the sound of comprehension”. There’s also a Polaroid of a New York City skyline given to her by the director of “The Cher Show,” Jason Moore.

As for the legendary woman Micaela plays? There's just one small Cher pin. The rest of the memorabilia is at the Neil Simon Theatre in Midtown Manhattan, where it's used to help Micaela get into character.

The 2010 movie "Burlesque," starring Christina Aguilera, was Micaela’s introduction to Cher, who’s also in the film. “I was madly obsessed with 'Burlesque' as a child. I learned all the dances way too early in age,” Micaela admitted with a laugh. “But that’s all I knew of Cher.”

When she got the role of Babe, Micaela said she went down a YouTube rabbit hole of old interviews and episodes of "The Sonny & Cher Show" for inspiration and research.

“Playing an icon like Cher is daunting. There's a huge expectation before you even step on the stage," Micaela said.

And if playing Cher is daunting, meeting her was even more terrifying, but still exhilarating. 

Courtesy of Micaela Diamond

“Cher said, 'We’re all here for the same reason, we love this and what we do,'" Micaela said. There was a long pause, then Cher added, "No pressure," the teen said. 

Karen's thrilled her daughter has another powerful female role model to look up to.

“I think the excitement of [Cher’s] life has made her more secure in who she is as a human,” Karen said. “The role [is] about women empowerment, so how could you not want that for the first role for a 19-year-old?”

Micaela added of Cher herself, "In the theater we call her ‘the Planet’ because she has such a gravitational pull toward her, so it was really hard to perform and not want to look at her."

Though exciting, the role has also been exhausting as well.

Micaela was convinced she'd have no problem keeping up with the demanding schedule, but it's been tougher than she thought it would be. “All of a sudden I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, eight times a week is no joke,’” she said.

As she ate breakfast, Micaela put an ice pack on her tender ankles, aching from long afternoons and nights on her feet.

“Being on Broadway is physically so hard," Micaela said. "... I will literally eat my breakfast with full-on swollen ankles like a grandmother."

“You’re not a grandmother," her mom countered. "You'll be so much wiser when you're a grandmother.”

Luckily, Micaela has her mom to handle the household chores for her, including laundry.

“As long as she was busy all the time, why should she have to do those things?” Karen asked.

“I’ll do it once in a while … just a little bit,” Micaela insisted.

On the Town 

What the teen does have to do herself, however, is her own grocery shopping. Being on Broadway means following a strict, healthy diet, and as Micaela walked through the aisles of Trader Joe's, she loaded her basket with kombucha, salted peanut butter, turkey bacon and dried mango slices. One indulgence? Popcorn, for a post-show snack.

Micaela took the subway to catch a 12:30 p.m. Pilates class to help her reset for the week ahead. (On a two-show day, she goes before the matinee because “it’s hard to wake up [for the show]  if you’re coming straight from home [without exercise].”) On her way, she stopped to offer a woman some help carrying a heavy bag up the stairs.

After class, Micaela headed back home to make lunch: a veggie patty topped with avocado with a slice of sweet potato and turkey bacon-wrapped dates on the side. 

Ahead of the evening show, Micaela took some time to read and prep for other projects planned, including singing the national anthem at the home opener for the New York Mets and a performance on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon."

Does she ever feel intimidated by the big city? Not really.

“Being a teenager in New York City is my favorite thing ever," Micaela said. "I loved growing up here and I think it's hard because sometimes you can get lost in the city, but as soon as you find your group of people, that's what home is."

At 5 p.m., Micaela left for the theater, hopping on the subway to get there in time for the 7 p.m. curtain.

“I don't really get nervous anymore," she said.

Getty Images

At the stage door, she signed her initials on the call sheet and headed up a few steep flights of stairs to get to her dressing room.

There, Micaela started her makeup application process around 5:45 p.m. (Yes, she does her own makeup.) Only a few of her costumes hang in her dressing room. Most are kept in the wings of the stage, ready for quick changes between scenes. Before the show, Micaela also sets time for herself to stretch and warm up her body, especially for her big Act II dance number to “The Beat Goes On.”

At 7 p.m., Micaela gets to work. As Babe, she plays the superstar from ages 8 to 19.

“To [play] someone who is pre-stardom, I think that's so cool,” Micaela said. “All she knows is that she wants to be famous and has no idea how to get there.”

As the curtain rises, she stands beside Stephanie J. Block and Teal Wicks, who play older versions of Cher. Her big numbers include the duet “I Got You Babe” with Jarrod Spector, who plays Sonny Bono, Cher’s first husband.

"It's a really great energy,” she said. “I'm learning so much from all of these veterans of the theater. It's exciting to go to work every day and learn something new. And it keeps it interesting because you do the show eight times a week, and it could get really boring unless you have great scene partners."

Karen added, “There’s so many mentors that she's picked up in just this one experience, it's really amazing. I am a single mom. But now she has Stephanie and her husband, [Sebastian Arcelus], and [her co-star] Jarrod and his wife [Kelli Barrett], who have this amazing marriage.” synced up with Micaela outside the stage door when the show was over, around 10 p.m. There, she signed autographs for some fans waiting in the rain.

“People my age at the stage door will be like, ‘I can't believe you're my age and doing this.’ Yes, I may be doing this because I was in the right spot at the right time,” Micaela said. “It's a great feeling to give them that sense of female empowerment; to let them walk out of the theater loving our story, loving her story.”

As for Micaela’s college deferment? She hopes to go one day for gender studies or psychology.

“As an actor and human, I am never content," she said. "There is a lot to learn to balance all of this.”

But for now, Broadway's got its Babe.