When The Beatles became a household name so did their hometown of Liverpool and to this day the two go hand in hand, with fans of the Fab Four travelling from far and wide to visit the place where they grew up. It was also the city that brought us one of Britain’s best-loved entertainers, Cilla Black.
Cilla the Musical charts the ‘red head from Scotty Road’s’ rise to fame from her humble beginnings to ultimate stardom. Jeff Pope has adapted his hit TV drama Cilla for this new stage version and it fits like a glove, celebrating not just her life but also the city she called her home.
From the start the audience are quickly transported back to the swinging sixties where music was in its prime and mini-skirts were worn even in the winter. It doesn’t take long to get your toes tapping as hits from the decade such as Gerry & the Pacemakers ‘I Like It’ and The Beatles ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ are belted out in Gary McCann’s recreation of the infamous Cavern Club.
It’s actually the introduction in the Cavern by a young John Lennon (Michael Hawkins) to music mogul Brian Epstein (Andrew Lancel) that changes Cilla’s life forever. She goes from a typing clerk to singing sensation and along the way falls in love with Bobby (Carl Au) who remains by her side throughout her career spurring her on.
It’s essentially a love story set among the backdrop of Cilla’s career taking flight – there’s happiness, sadness and a lots of laughter in between, mostly provided by the dry northern humour of Cilla’s dad played superbly by Neil MacDonald.
The real star of the show though has to be Kara Lily Hayworth in the title role of Cilla, giving the audience goosebumps with her breath-taking rendition of ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’. Hayworth’s performance shows why she was plucked from thousands at the open auditions as she manages to create the essence of the entertainer without just making it an impersonation.
Former Coronation Street actor Andrew Lancel is another triumph with his terrific performance as her manager Brian Epstein. Lancel puts the twinkle in Epstein’s eye but also shows his tortured side as he wrestles with his sexuality and inner demons which ends in tragedy.
You can tell there’s a lot of love that has gone in to making this musical which may have something to do with one of Cilla’s close friends Bill Kenwright co-producing and directing the show and her son Robert Willis in the role of Executive Producer. Cilla knew of plans to make her story into a musical before sadly passing away two years ago – now it has become a fitting tribute to one of our national treasures and I’m sure she would be smiling down in approval at the result.
If you can get to see Cilla The Musical then you are sure to have a lorra lorra fun and you will definitely be on your feet twisting and shouting by the finale!
Runs at the Palace Theatre, Manchester until Saturday 25th November