REVIEW: Cilla – The Musical
This is not a tribute show – it’s far more than that. It has real depth – sharper than any jukebox musical. This is the early part of the Cilla Black life story sealed with a loving Liverpool kiss.
Kara Lily Hayworth was chosen from open auditions to play Cilla. She certainly captures the spirit of the singer who enjoyed a career lasting 50 years until her death in 2015.
This is a well-crafted impressive production that brings together the best in theatre talent in front of and behind the curtain.
Gary McCann’s clever set design is beautifully lit by Nick Richings. The audience is taken back to The Cavern, 60s Liverpool when red phone boxes that worked were in plentiful supply.
The story written by the accomplished wordsmith Jeff Pope who did a great job on the TV series called Cilla takes working class Priscilla White from office secretary to the Cavern where – on making friends with a certain John Lennon – she is encouraged to become a singer.
It was clear that Cilla had the X factor back in 1963.
John, played with just the right nasal twang and subtle swagger by Michael Hawkins, calls Cilla ‘Cyril’ but he is serious about her making it as a singer. Despite an awful audition for Brian Epstein she redeems herself at a later gig and ‘Eppy’ is hooked.
The feeling is mutual.
Bill Kenwright directs with co-director and Bob Tomson – just the right duo to present a musical about an iconic Merseyside figure.
Famous for their work on Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers Bill and Bob know what audiences want. The balance here works from the outset. They build an atmosphere that successfully recreates the 60s period.
Musical director Scott Alder puts together quite a comprehensive package of Merseybeat pop history from The Beatles, The Big Three, Gerry and The Pacemakers to our Cilla.
There is also a visit to America and the Ed Sullivan show where we hear The Mamas and Papas and se an unhappy Cilla missing home.
Choreographer Carole Todd gives the audience plenty to smile about, too.
It is fun to see the Beatles as supporting players in this tale. Bill Caple offers an effective portrayal of the drummer from Dingle who also backed Cilla for super stardom.
The Beatle numbers are especially effective on Twist and Shout, You Really Got a Hold on Me and You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.
One of the great strengths of the two and half hour production is the humour. Cilla’s parents played by Pauline Fleming and Paul Broughton bring their vast experience to the stage with some great comic timing.
Central to the narrative is Bobby Willis played by a charming Carl Au. Bobby fell in love with Cilla and became her rock.
During a dip in their relationship we hear a delightful duet on You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.
Andrew Lancel gives another critically-acclaimed take on Brian Epstein. Andrew’s performance is a major highlight.
Kara is outstanding throughout on singing the Cilla catalogue including Anyone Who Had a Heart to You’re My World, Step Inside Love Luv, Something Tells Me and Alfie.
The finale sees Cilla’s name in huge, illuminated letters drop majestically to the stage. It is the sign of Cilla’s status.
It is also, in this case, a triumphant sign of a show’s success when the audience rise to their feet shouting for more.
This production is a celebration of an all-round entertainer whose memory still sparkles like champagne.
Black Magical(5 / 5)