Theatre Review: Cilla the Musical at Woking’s New Victoria Theatre

Kara Lily Hayworth as Cilla (Photo by Matt Martin)

Kara Lily Hayworth as Cilla (Photo by Matt Martin) - Credit: Archant

Taking you back to a world before mobile phones, before social media and when the music was purely about the music, Cilla The Musical is much more than an on-stage biopic of the much-loved, red-haired entertainer and national treasure, Cilla Black.

The show, written by BAFTA award-winning Jeff Pope who produced the ITV mini-series Cilla on which the musical is based, recreates the legendary Merseybeat live on stage and has been nominated for Best New Musical at the What’s On Stage awards.

Featuring hits from Liverpool’s finest musical export, The Beatles, from the get go (for those, like me, unfamiliar with the details of Cilla’s rise to fame, she was introduced to her long-term manager Brian Epstein by her friend John Lennon), as well as tracks from Big Three, Gerry and The Pacemakers and Mamas & Papas, it’s the ultimate soundtrack for anyone who is a fan of the music of that era.

Having not been around in the sixties (and regrettably not yet watched Pope’s television series, lead-starring Sheridan Smith), I had some concerns I would have trouble relating to the music but less than a couple of minutes in, my feet were tapping along.

The musical reunites Tom Dunlea, Michael Hawkins and Gemma Brodrick-Bower, all of whom starred in Pope’s ITV mini-series, and also reunites Andrew Lancel (best known to TV audiences as super-villain Frank Foster in Coronation Street and as DI Neil Manson in The Bill) with the role of Epstein, which he played on stage to great critical acclaim in Epstein – The Man Who Made The Beatles.

But by far the stars of the show are Kara Lily Hayworth and Carl Au (Waterloo Road), who both give heart-warming performances as Cilla (born Priscilla White) and her long-suffering partner Bobby Willis.

Hayworth manages to capture Cilla’s nasally Scouse accent and gawky posture impeccably and her renditions of Anyone Who Had a Heart and You’re My World not only pull at the heartstrings but arguably surpass the real Cilla’s natural singing talent. There was clearly a reason she was chosen from thousands who auditioned up and down the country to fill the Liverpudlian legend’s shoes. Meanwhile Au’s interpretation of the sensitive and loyal Bobby showcases why the pair were a life-long unbreakable partnership.

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Don’t let ignorance of the sixties stop you from seeing this show; whether you experienced the era for yourself or not, Cilla The Musical whips up a sense of nostalgia that makes for a really great night out.

Cilla The Musical is at New Victoria Woking until Saturday, March 24. Tickets from £17.90.

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