Growing up in the 80s my childhood memories of family TV included classic shows like Blind Date and Surprise Surprise. After only really witnessing Cilla Black sing the theme tune to one of those shows plus the occasional song on a chat show, I never really understood the Nations love for Cilla’s musical career until witnessing the truly mesmerising Sheridan Smith during the TV biopic Cilla.
As a result, I was looking forward to a great evening knowing that this production was a live adaptation of that very TV show written by Jeff Pope and I was not left disappointed.
Whilst this is the story of Cilla’s rise to stardom, you do not need to be a fan of Cilla Black to enjoy yet another success directed by Bill Kenwright. If you love the 60s, The Beatles or are just interested in the history of music then this is sure to get your toes tapping and give you a new insight into this iconic era.
Kara Lily Hayworth had the daunting task of taking on the title role and she did not disappoint. Captivating from beginning to end, Kara is a star, playing the young down to earth Priscilla White and capturing every emotion from a nervous girl to a rising star.
With an onstage orchestra who blended in well with each scene and directed superbly by Scott Adler, Kara delivered hit after hit effortlessly including “Anyone Who Had A Heart” and “Alfie.” When Kara sang “Don’t Answer Me” there was not many dry eyes left in the house – including the men.
Cilla had two main men in her life during those initial 4 years Brian Epstein – manager and Bobby Willis – manager, lover, husband, manager. Andrew Lancel (Coronation Street) showed his true professionalism and acting ability as the troubled Brian – a perfect choice as the unassuming Epstein who had the knack for finding a star.
In real life the world knew how much Cilla loved her husband Bobby and how much she needed him, but it wasn’t all plain sailing in the beginning. As did Cilla, this show needed a strong-willed and determined Bobby and we got one with Carl Au – an unexpected yet pleasant surprise for me after watching him as troublemaker Barry in Waterloo Road – good vocals especially in “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.”A strong cast also surrounded Kara, Andrew and Carl – most notably Michael Hawkins, Joshua Gannon, Alex Harford and Bill Caple as John, Paul, George and Ringo respectively. The Beatles introduced Cilla to Brian and the rest as they say is history. Michael’s version of “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” delivered the real meaning of the song. Joshua also gave a strong vocal as ¼ of the Mamas and Papas during “California Dreaming.”
Alan Howell showed his versatility playing Gerry Marsden, Burt Bacharach and Ed Sullivan. Cilla’s parents were played by Pauline Fleming and Neil Macdonald – both had great warmth and chemistry and perfect comedy timing.
Completing the main cast was Billie Hardy and Gemma Roderick-Bower as Cilla’s friends Pat and Pauline, Tom Christian and Amy Bridges as Bobby’s brother Kenny and sister-in-law Rose and Tom Sowinski as producer George Martin.
The set design was one of the best I’ve seen for a while, changing from The Cavern Club to the flat, Abbey Road Studios to The Ed Sullivan Show with ease – I wanted to be up there at The Cavern Club having a boogie to “Twist and Shout.”
This story has something for everyone – humour, drama, love affairs, heartbreak and a cracking soundtrack. Definitely worthy of the standing ovation at the end and we can even forgive Kara’s little mishap of “thanking Northampton” the crowd didn’t seem to care.
Cilla The Musical, Theatre Royal Nottingham until Saturday 7th April – don’t miss it!