Culture, Review

Review: Cilla – The Musical @ Manchester’s Palace Theatre

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By Sophie Hollands


Cilla – The Musical at Manchester’s Palace Theatre was a perfect enactment of the extraordinary life of the late and great, Cilla Black. High and low points of her life were spread throughout a plethora of her greatest hits performed by a talented and witty cast that had you laughing at one point and crying the next.

It tells the story of Priscilla White, a young red-head from Merseyside who has a dream of becoming a number one artist. From watching The Beatles perform at Liverpool’s Cavern Club working as the cloakroom attendant, to being managed by Brian Epstein, and creating number one hits as Cilla Black, with her husband Bobby by her side, this production covers it all.

Gary McCann’s active set of the Cavern Club, Liverpool townhouses, the living room of her parents’ house, the famous Abbey Road Studios and the set of her TV show ‘Cilla’ moved seamlessly from one to another throughout the show. The storyline covered an entire lifetime of Cilla’s career and the set enabled you to constantly recognise the point of her life in which we were seeing at that exact moment. Her greatest hits were played by a sensational orchestra, led by Gary Hickeson, who rein-acted the sounds of Cilla’s tracks with great style.

Kara Lily-Hayworth, who plays Cilla, is a complete standout. Everything from her accent, mannerisms and astonishing voice did great justice to Cilla herself. Her Scouse accent filled the Palace Theatre with warmth due to its uncanny resemblance and was as if Cilla was standing right before your eyes. Kara Lily-Hayworth held a mesmerising sense of connection with every single song, particularly Cilla’s number one hits ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart and You’re My World’. The audience were transfixed by her naïve personality as Priscilla White, which evolved into the confident young woman that was Cilla Black. Her voice carried the audience through a tale of emotion during the show, regularly sparking a roaring applause, which was so richly deserved, Kara Lily-Hayworth is a breathtaking talent.

The relationship between Cilla and Bobby Willis, played fantastically by Carl Au, was extremely realistic. There was a strong sense of chemistry that was upheld throughout and Carl Au had a kind-heartedness that resonated with the audience immediately, at the end I felt as though I too had grown to love him, just like Cilla did. This relationship was perfectly displayed when Bobby and Cilla Performed, ‘You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling’ and their raw emotion and connection on stage was felt in the audience as Act 2 reached a tearful peak. The role of Big Cilla, and John White, played commendably by Pauline Fleming and Neil MacDonald, provided a constant source of humour that had the audience laughing out loud on many occasions. They were a breath of fresh air amongst a show full of intense emotion.

Bill Kenwright and Laurie Mansfield’s musical adaptation on BAFTA award winning Jeff Pope’s hit ITV series was a roaring success that took the audience at the Palace Theatre through a journey of every emotion possible. A chronological storyline of the eventful life of Cilla Black was played wonderfully by a cast that oozed talent – a must see for anyone and everyone.

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