Sharing Cher

Sacramento Actress Scores Another Broadway Hit

By Susan Maxwell Skinner
February 2019

Broadway singer/actress Teal Wicks is a veteran of many opening nights. However, her debut in “The Cher Show” last December in New York was especially memorable. Among many celebrities, Kim Kardashian, Kanye West and Bernadette Peters were lured to the Neil Simon Theatre.

During the final ovation, the real Cher stepped on stage. “We’d known she was there; we didn’t know she’d sing,” reports Sacramentan Wicks. “She took the mic—and wow. It was an amazing moment.”

The show casts three women to document the star’s long career. Wicks portrays TV star Cher, bouncing one-liners off husband Sonny Bono. “Our writers gave me some real zingers,” approves Wicks. “I get all the laughs.”

Thanks to Cher’s designer Bob Mackie, the hometown girl also gets spectacular costumes. “My favorite is covered with white bugle beads,” she says. “I’m a T-shirt-and-jeans girl, but Cher’s gowns are empowering.”

After opening night, the legend embraced her alter-egos. “Cher told me about her relationship with Sonny,” recalls Wicks. “She said they had a blast with what they created. But when business became a huge part of their private life, things got tough for them.”

Carmichael mom Gail Sutton has seen the show at least as many times as the mega-star. “It still feels special to know mom’s in the audience,” says her daughter. “When close family come, I remind myself how lucky I am to be earning a living doing what I dreamed of.

“It’s odd doing Cher in front of Cher. You’re aware of every little gesture, wondering if she thinks it is authentic. She had final say in our casting. My auditions were taped and I know she saw them. It feels good to know we have her blessing to tell her story.”

Portraying Cher at eight shows a week nevertheless challenges stamina. How the real star continues the feat in her 70s is a mystery to many. “If I could ask Cher a single question, I’d ask how she gets her energy,” ponders Wicks. “How can she keep doing what she does for so long?”

Whatever the answer, Cher’s cast is grateful for a hit show. “Opening night felt wonderful,” says Wicks. “We were excited to have it received so well.” She and castmates will don Cher’s many wigs and costumes for their yearlong contracts. Beyond that, their fate rests with Broadway audiences.

“There are no guarantees,” admits Wicks. “A show runs for as long as people keep coming. This time, we’re telling a story people want to hear. We hope it has a long run.”

PETROLEUM EMPIRE

A business that began on a Carmichael street corner is now one of Sacramento’s most geographically far-flung enterprises.

Owned by Ed Marszal—with father, daughter and son as executives—California Retail Management pumps petroleum at 42 stations in four U.S. states. All outlets have convenience stores, and the combined operation has more than 350 employees.

It’s an understatement that Marszal has come a long way from being the Ohio college graduate who left the Army and sold auto accessories. “I felt I could run a gas station at least as well as some guys I was selling tires to,” he recalls. “In 1981, an old Chevron station on the Marconi and Walnut corner became available. I didn’t plan an empire. I just wanted to make one station work.”

The boss pumped gas, mopped floors and employed mechanics for repairs. When daughter Annie (now Marszal’s development executive) was born, he covered his macho premises with pink ribbons. “That got us in the newspaper and brought new customers,” he says. “People like family businesses. I still have full-service available at all our stations. We’ll never charge for air or water. Cashiers are the most important people in our company. Their friendliness determines whether a customer comes back.

“One day a lady asked me where she could get her car washed. I washed it myself. From then, we put carwashes in our stations.”

While alert to innovation, Marszal treasures the continuity of longtime employees and family. Chief financial officer Elizabeth Valentina has been his right hand for 34 years. Executive Tim Skovensky has provided what Marszal calls “glue” for operations for 12 years. Daughter Annie and son Adam are also executives. “My kids began as cashiers,” he says. “They’ve done their share of cleaning restrooms, too.”

Outside Sacramento, the family now has stations in Maui, Oahu, Nevada and Ohio. 2019 plans include a new El Dorado Hills outlet. Marszal and his wife, Susan, of 37 years live quietly in Carmichael.

Marszal also houses an arsenal of vintage petrol pumps, telephones and slot machines at his HQ. “In the 1950s, every oil company had distinctive pumps,” he explains. “They were works of art. I love seeing them restored and gleaming. They’re relics of an industry dear to my heart.”

In his 40 high-octane years, Marszal has seen oil companies and retailers come and go. “Many of our competitors lost their focus on service,” considers the survivor. “Service has constantly opened doors for us. The gasoline engine will be around for many more decades. As for gas stations, I believe the strong and the friendly will survive.”

BUTTON BAZAAR

Some eye-popping antiques slip easily through a buttonhole. At the Sacramento Button Club’s March 9 expo, you might snag a Civil War tunic fastener for $50. If you lust for hand-painted 18th century pieces, be prepared to unbutton your billfold.

Snipped from long-ago rotted garments, many are thumb-nail masterpieces. “We often look at old buttons and imagine the stories they could tell,” says Button Club treasurer Susan Rhoades. “They were traded, stolen and inherited. Lives were lost in making them; pearl dust and mercury (for gold plating) killed many. You learn so much about history, art and manufacturing from buttons.”

In the Middle Ages, no material was too grand for the button-makers’ art. Georgian aristocrats later created Gainsborough-style portraits—sometimes of their pets—to fasten vests. When Queen Victoria took to wearing jet specimens, society followed.

Though zippers have revolutionized modern fastening, nifty little buttons have never been completely undone. “People visit our shows seeking that one perfect item,” says Sacramento collector Faye Wolfe. “One lady brought a vest she’d sewn; she wanted buttons for it. In the end, she chose four, each different. Who says they have to match? Our button world is full of eccentricity.”

The Button Bazaar will be held Saturday, March 9, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at La Sierra Center, 5325 Engle Road, Carmichael. The show will offer free buttons appraisals. Admission is a $2 donation. For more information, contact fwolfe@surewest.net

DANCING WITH OSCAR

Fancy a mambo with Marilyn Monroe? A jive with Jack Sparrow? An Oscar dance party promises to bring out the glam in hoofers on Friday, Feb. 22, at Mission Oaks Community Center.

Heralding the Feb. 24 Academy Awards, the center will host dancing and refreshments. The John Skinner Band will provide music—from movie themes to swing favorites to rock tunes. Dancing begins at 1:15 pm.

Sponsors include Winding Commons and the estate of Mary Fran Nichols. Everyone is welcome to attend this free event. Movie-inspired attire is encouraged.

Susan Maxwell Skinner can be reached at sknrband@aol.com. Submissions are due six weeks prior to the publication month.

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