Review of the opening night of Cilla The Musical at Leeds Grand Theatre 16/10/2018.
Written by Lisa Bourne for Evoke Media Group / Blog Up North.
The show opens with a teenage Cilla White singing into a hairbrush, imagining the delights of becoming a star, and ends with her singing on her very own TV Show, her name in bright lights.
Cilla The Musical is the musical adaptation of the critically acclaimed hit ITV television series by Bafta Award winner Jeff Pope, and follows the story of how dreams of fame came true for a “gawky young girl with red ‘urr” from Liverpool.
I was born in 1984. Cilla Black was staple Saturday night TV viewing in our house throughout my childhood. Blind Date and Surprise Surprise ran from 1984 and 1985 respectively into the early 2000s but it was only as I grew older that I discovered she’d been a popstar. So, when I heard about the show, I was intrigued about Cilla’s fight for recognition and subsequently what content Cilla The Musical might contain.
Musical numbers from The Big Three, The Beatles and Gerry and the Pacemakers set the scene of the emerging Mersey Beat. I readily admit that 60s rock and roll music and ballads don’t usually float my boat but I barely stopped smiling throughout the show. The live music was actually quite infectious and the storyline was full of humour which pleasantly surprised me. It really showcased Cilla’s determination to succeed. Kara Lily Hayworth has an absolutely fantastic voice and her portrayal of Cilla’s growth in confidence is delightful.
Another surprise for me was how much I fell in love with some of the other characters. They weren’t there simply to support Kara in her role as Cilla but each one added something to the story – Cilla’s manager Brian Epstein (Andrew Lancel) battling with his own demons, her beloved Bobby (Alexander Patmore) trying his best to support Cilla whilst simultaneously being pushed away, and John Lennon’s (Michael Hawkins) dry quips all pulled me in!
The staging was also brilliant. There were some really clever but subtle uses of props, space and lighting. In one scene, Cilla sings live on American TV and the set is in grayscale presumably to reflect the footage being televised on black and white sets. In another, after a night of dancing in The Cavern, a coat rack prop is reeled out while the ladies have a chat by the coats – a lovely little nod to Cilla’s coat room attendant role. Don’t even get me started on the stunning costumes. There were so many changes I lost count!
It was a whistle-stop tour of Cilla’s life in the 1960s. It had everything from dreary interiors to glitz and glam, tragedy to humour, and ultimately I left feeling totally uplifted and inspired. Not bad to say I knew very little about Cilla Black when I went in!
One thing I will definitely not forget in a hurry are the goosebumps springing up on my arms when Kara sang Anyone Who Had A Heart.
The standing ovation after the final number was totally and utterly deserved. Big congratulations to all involved in the show.
Blog Up North Blogger CubKit went along with Lisa and has written this review.
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