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Theatre Review: Cilla - the Musical

5 April 18 words: Ian Douglas

Surprise, surprise, it's Cilla!

Cast of Cilla the Musical

Kara Lily Hayworth as Cilla

They say if you remember the sixties, you weren’t there. But whether you’re a silver-haired baby boomer or a baby-faced millennial, this show is a delight.

It’s back through the time tunnel to 1963 and a working class teenager is singing into her hairbrush in the bedroom. Yes, it’s Cilla, future British icon. Soon she’s at the legendary Cavern nightclub, dancing to the Beatles and batting off boys. One boy in particular, Bobby Willis. No chance, thinks Cilla. Bobby isn’t even a Catholic.

Over the next two hours, Cilla will rise to mega-stardom, cross the Atlantic for the Ed Sullivan Show, and launch a television career that loomed over the entertainment industry for decades. Along the way she’ll find love, lose it, reign in that showbiz ego, and learn what really matters in life. Someone not destined to happiness however, is her manager Brian Epstein. His downward trajectory counterpoints Cilla’s ascent, as the homophobic world slowly destroys him.

That, in a nutshell, is Cilla the Musical. Act one is a lorra, lorra laughs, while Act Two takes a darker turn. Perhaps the stars of the show, though, are the songs. The cast relive hit after hit, from the best of Cilla’s back catalogue, to a few other sixties gems. And these are fantastic. Everyone in the cast seems capable of belting out a classic; the music is perfect, and the choreography fun.

The storyline never flags. Kara Lily Hayworth excels as Cilla. Her rendition of Anyone Who Had A Heart cast a spell over the theatre. But it is as much Bobby Willis’ story as Cilla’s, and Carl Au captures the audience’s attention with a heartfelt performance and a cracking voice. Andrew Lancel also does a great job, bringing the troubled persona of Brian Epstein to life. Other sixties personalities incarnated for the show include Burt Bacharach, Danny La Rue, George Martin and of course the Fab Four.

Sets, lighting, costumes all combine to make you forget the twenty-first century, even if it’s for a second. For those of us who do remember the sixties, this is poignant and bittersweet trip down memory lane. A polished production, that brought a standing ovation from the audience. Highly recommended.

Cilla The Musical plays at the Theatre Royal from Tuesday April 3 to Saturday April 7 2018.


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