Cilla the Musical, New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham - review
Most musicals will claim to have a ‘showstopper’, a song or performance so fantastic that the production is temporarily interrupted by applause.
But when ‘Cilla’ brought Anyone Who Had a Heart to a spell-binding climax, time seemed to actually stand still for just a moment before the whole theatre erupted into applause.
One, two, three waves of cheers and applause continued before the set changed and we moved on – to that phone box moment as Cilla and her Bobby discover the single has gone to number 1 in the charts.
And the curtain falls. . . and we breathe again, wiping those stray tears away.
Cilla the Musical is a rollercoaster of breath-taking highs and heart-wrenching lows in the modern day fairytale of a young girl from Merseyside who followed her dream of fame and fortune to become one of Britain’s biggest selling female singers and a much-loved TV personality.
See a trailer for the show here:
It is a heart-warming tale of love and devotion, of selfish ambition and pride and ultimately of hope and inspiration.
Originally written by Jeff Pope for the TV drama Cilla starring Sheridan Smith, the production offers a fascinating insight into the Mersey Beat scene of the 60s. It also delves into the complicated, tragic life of Brian Epstein and his influence on the industry at that time.
The score includes hits from such contemporaries as The Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers and The Mamas and the Papas.
But of course Cilla’s songs are at the heart of the musical and Kara Lily Hayworth, who plays the lead role, is quite simply an amazing singer.
She powers her way flawlessly through such famous hits as You’re My World, Alfie, Love of the Loved, Something Tells Me and It’s For You.
Cilla’s incredible career and emotional journey is at the heart of the story and the hits are strictly relevant, rather than some loose plot contrived to link highlights of her discography together.
In appearance Hayworth does not immediately resonate as ‘our Cilla’. In fact, after a change of hairstyle and costume change for the Alfie recording, she is more Theresa May than the girl next door.
But Hayworth, who queued for four hours to audition for this sought-after role, does offer a convincing performance as the down-to-earth, teenage Liver bird, born Priscilla White, who won the hearts of a nation.
There is clearly chemistry on stage between Hayworth and Carl Au who plays the love of her life Bobby with a particularly beautiful duet in You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.
Andrew Lancel is impressive as the troubled Epstein while there are a ‘lorra laughs’ from Pauline Fleming and Neil MacDonald who play Cilla’s parents, the Whites.
It didn’t take long before members of the audience were singing along to the many 60s classics and they were on their feet before the finale.
A standing ovation was almost inevitable and rightly deserved – with Hayworth justly receiving the biggest cheers.
For anyone who has a heart, a love of music or just likes a good story this show is an absolute must. Surprise, surprise – Cilla the Musical is a hit.
Runs at the New Alexandra Theatre until Saturday but be quick – tickets are selling fast.