Cilla – The Musical

Given that she’s such a much-loved public entertainer, an all-too-obvious challenge in creating a musical based on the early life of the late Cilla Black—born Priscilla Maria Veronica White—is that, while she certainly had some big hit singles—“Anyone Who Had a Heart”, “You’re My World”, and “Alfie”, to name just three—her back catalogue of really familiar hits arguably isn’t large enough to fill a two-hours-plus musical.

The star of the show, of course, is Kara Lily Hayworth

Yet there is also time to show us Cilla’s slow-but-growing relationship with Bobby Willis, who she would eventually marry and—following the death of Epstein—appoint as her manager. It’s all done with humour and a generally light touch, while not ignoring the background of religious bigotry between Liverpool’s Protestant and Catholic communities. While Bobby may well, on paper, feel somewhat two-dimensional, Carl Au breathes real passion into the man who, during the course of the second half, is willing to give up much in order to support the life and ambitions of the woman he loves.

Andrew Lancel has “previous”, having played the titular Epstein—the Man Who Made The Beatles. Here, he’s not given an excessive amount to do; while clearly portrayed as the “other” important man in Cilla’s life, he’s resolutely in her shadow, with the show’s sometimes excessive use of spotlights resolutely focused on her. That said, Lancel at least gets far more stage time than any of the actors playing The Beatles, who at one point even play as Cilla’s backing band. Paul Broughton and Pauline Fleming, meantime, bring spot-on comic timing to the otherwise one-note roles of Cilla’s parents.

The star of the show, of course, is Kara Lily Hayworth; discovered through an open audition, she has her own story of rising success and fame, and certainly gives us Cilla’s confidence, openness and strong vocals—if not always her occasional gentler moments. In one sense, that’s fine; early on Bobby praises Cilla singing “rock ’n’ roll like a bloke”. But it sometimes forgets that nigh on all of Cilla’s half-dozen hits were ballads.

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

Multiple Venues

Showtime from the Frontline

Traverse Theatre

The Last Bordello

The Lyceum

The Belle's Stratagem

Perth Theatre

Knives in Hens

The Lyceum

The Lover

The Studio

The Tin Soldier




The Blurb

Charting the spectacular rise of one of Britain’s best-loved entertainers, Cilla - The Musical is spectacular, heart-warming musical adaptation of the critically acclaimed hit ITV television series by Jeff Pope. The ultimate soundtrack of the 1960s.