Cilla the Musical at New Wimbledon TheatreCultureTheatre
It’s obvious – from the audience, the jokes and even the retrospective final song, Through the Years – that the primary draw of Cilla the Musical is indulging nostalgia, possibly to the extent that some of it may be lost on viewers who weren’t alive during that time. That said, there is still something, if not as much, for theatregoers with only a cursory knowledge of this period of music and not only because many of the songs, such as some of the more famous Beatles numbers, will still be recognisable. Unsurprisingly, given it features her son, Robert Willis, as an executive producer, this musical manages to be a wholesome and feel-good depiction of Cilla Black’s career, although without ever going so far as to become saccharine and one-dimensional. As musicals will, it does resolve every set-back fairly quickly but the conflict, such as that between Cilla’s relationship and her ambition, still feels genuine and affecting all the same.
What makes this production even more than Jeff Pope’s writing, however, is the casting, particularly that of Kara Lily Hayworth as Cilla Black. Hayworth has a phenomenal voice that never loses steam despite the enormous number of songs she has to perform, with the highlight being her chillingly powerful rendition of Black’s first number one, Anyone Who Had a Heart. Carl Au as Cilla’s husband Bobby is another immense talent, with an excellent voice that is understandably but regretfully underused. The success of this production is, in a way, attributable to the whole cast though, since it would be nowhere near half as triumphant if the accents, primarily Liverpudlian, were not so spot-on and consistent throughout –including excellent impersonations of well-known figures such as John Lennon and Ed Sullivan.
Overall, Cilla the Musical achieves what it is attempting to be, which is a lighthearted musical, with some weepy and some humorous moments, that captures a specific moment in Liverpool’s musical history, as well as one woman’s life. It’s not a life-changing piece of art, though in many ways it could be life-affirming, but it also never claims to be.
Photo: Matt Martin
Cilla the Musical is at New Wimbledon Theatre from 8th until 11th November 2017 before continuing its UK tour. For further information or to book visit the show website here.
Watch the trailer for Cilla the Musical here: