It turns out that Cilla Black (born Cilla White) had a fascinating and intriguing back-story which elevates this show above the run-of-the-mill jukebox musical into something much more captivating and uplifting. Yes, we have the great show-stopping numbers – Anyone Who Had a Heart, You’re My World, Alfie, and Step Inside Love – but we also have an in-depth exploration of one of early Pop’s endearing and enduring characters set against the absorbing Mersey Beat music scene of the ’sixties. This is what elevates Jeff Pope’s affectionate bio-show above the ordinary – the fact that we don’t just have wall-to-wall Cilla music-wise but also The Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers and others all helping to paint a picture of an iconic era out of which a lowly hat-check girl becomes a superstar.
And that’s not all: we have tragedy as well in the parallel story of Brian Epstein (Andrew Lancel), Cilla’s manager as well as of his beloved Beatles. Pope doesn’t hold back from exposing the closet-nature of his personal life and the rendering of John Lennon’s Hey, You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away is an emotional and moving sequence in the show. The show ends in 1967 as Cilla embarks on the next stage of her career as TV personality, the contract for which was on Epstein’s bed beside him, at his untimely death from an overdose, as first the Beatles and then Cilla started to slip away from his grasp.
To make all this work, though you need a Cilla. In Kara Lily Hayworth we have a performer of outstanding talent who not only speaks like Cilla, sings like Cilla and has all Cilla’s mannerisms but she really is Cilla for the duration of the show. Sparky, moody, funny, emotional, Hayworth gets every aspect of Cilla’s personality and we are given a truly intimate understanding of the Liverpool live wire. And what a voice! Hayworth brings the house down with Anyone Who Had Heart just before the interval but her every number is delivered with seismic energy and true empathy. And just like Cilla, she has the audience in the palm of her hand.
She’s ably supported by an excellent cast with Alexander Patmore as the long-suffering Bobby Willis – manager/roadie/bag carrier/eventual husband – giving a delightfully engaging performance. And the musicians zing and rock throughout this pulsating show.
Directed by Bill Kenwright Cilla, the Musical is a must-see. So if you’re in Bromley, at a loose end, then step inside, love.
Review by Peter Yates
Cilla – The Musical is a spectacular and heart-warming musical adaptation of the critically acclaimed ITV mini-series based on the early life of Cilla Black, by BAFTA award-winner, Jeff Pope (The Moorside, Philomena, From The Cradle To The Grave, Mrs Biggs, Little Boy Blue).
The story follows the extraordinary life of the ordinary teenage girl from Liverpool, Priscilla White, and her rocky, yet incredible, rise to fame. By the age of just 25 she was recognised as international singing star Cilla Black and would go on to become Britain’s favourite television entertainer headlining series’ of Blind Date, Surprise Surprise and many more.
The musical score is the ultimate soundtrack to the 60’s including Cilla’s greatest hits Anyone Who Had a Heart, Alfie and Something Tells Me, alongside a backdrop of the legendary Liverpool Sound including The Beatles’ Twist and Shout, and American influences like California Dreamin’ by The Mamas and The Papas and many more.
Cilla The Musical
Churchill Theatre, Bromley
Tuesday 11th to Saturday 15th Serptember 2018