Touring – Storyhouse, Chester
Based on both a real-life story and Jeff Pope’s Bafta award-winning ITV drama, Cilla the Musical brings to life the story of Priscilla White, a teenage girl from Liverpool whose dreams turned to reality as she became one of the most loved stars of the 1960s and most popular entertainers of all time.
Black began her career in 1963 and had a career in both music and television which spanned five decades; including shows such as Surprise Surprise and Blind Date. The musical score incorporates both Cilla’s best-loved songs and other well-known hits from the sixties well.
You can expect to hear many of the songs that everyone remembers from the sixties, including ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’ and ‘You’re My World’, alongside The Beatles’ ‘Twist and Shout’ and Martha and the Vandellas’ 1964 hit ‘Dancing in the Street’.
Kara Lily Hayworth, who landed the role through success at rigorous open auditions, plays the role of hopeful starlet Priscilla White whose life changes massively once introduced to Brian Epstein. It is no wonder that Hayworth bagged the role, as her portrayal of Black was astounding. Black herself would be proud. The vocals were extremely impressive and although not from Liverpool, Hayworth really did the accent justice.
Personal assistant turned boyfriend Bobby, played by Carl Au, brought plenty of drama to the production. With a strong voice and solid acting, the character was portrayed excellently. With charm and wit, Au shone throughout the show.
Brian Epstein, played by Andrew Lancel, was executed fantastically. The character’s tragic tale was intertwined with the main plot of the show, and worked well. The audience connected with Lancel well and he received loud applause at the curtain call.
The ensemble and supporting characters all gave good performances, with Pauline Fleming and Neil MacDonald standing out in the comedy roles as Cilla’s Parents.
The first act of the show feels more like a concert than a musical theatre production, as it is done in a style that almost breaks the fourth wall, different to anything I have seen in a while. Set mostly in the Cavern Club in Liverpool, Cilla embarks on her journey from teenage starlet to national treasure.
During the second act, there are significantly more numbers which make it feel like a musical theatre production, rather than a concert. However there were a few set mishaps, with one of the backdrops being lowered completely down instead of pulled back up out of view and wonky tables. Set mishaps aside, the cast often had to deal with the band being louder than their microphones, which is a shame. Throughout the bigger numbers, Hayworth could hardly be heard over the live band, which can easily be remedied and make the whole experience even more enjoyable.