Cilla – Review – Bradford Alhambra
Cilla – Review
Bradford Alhambra, November 2017
by Steve Crabtree – @stevecrab
Opening nights here at the Alhambra, Bradford are always exciting affairs, and the atmosphere has already built up tonight as we arrive to see Cilla The Musical is no different.
What was originally a 2014 ITV drama by Jeff Pope, is now a stage musical on tour in the UK, and has been earning rave reviews. The sell-out audience is introduced to Cilla in the opening scene as she talks about how successful she’s been in her life as if she’s already had it. But then we find out she’s talking about her dreams, and what she wishes her life was like.
Kara Lily Hayworth takes the part of Cilla, and straight away the mannerisms, persona and the spoken word are spot on. Close your eyes and you’d think Cilla Black was in the room.
In a very impressive set, we’re taken in to Cilla’s family home (without a front door), the streets outside in Liverpool, and the clubs where she’d dance to live bands before being invited up on stage to sing, which is where the story of the rise to stardom kicks in.
“Really stuns the audience”
And this is also where Kara Lily Hayworth really stuns the audience with her vocal range and abilities. She can seriously sing, and again carries off Cilla to perfection.
Two men in her life form an essential part of the storyline. Bobby Willis is Cilla’s admirer turned Manager, and his part is superbly played by Carl Au. A lovable, friendly guy with a heart of gold, Au plays the part so well and convincingly. You take to the character so well. He’s part of the same Liverpool scene, which is a nice part of an upbeat story, with some great 60s pop tunes thrown in. It’s worth noting how these songs from bands of the Merseybeat genre slide so seamlessly in and out of the story.
And it’s during those songs that we meet the other man: Brian Epstein. He takes Cilla and Bobby on and leads her to greater things. Epstein’s part, played superbly by Andrew Lancel, is one of multiple-personalities – the overall nice, confident guy whose troubles and demons sometimes take hold of him.
“West End Quality Scenery”
As the story unfolds from humble beginnings to glitz and glamour, the scenery perfectly reflects the journey. And it’s firmly West End quality scenery for this tour too. You can’t help but become immersed in the show yourself. Bright lights that hit your eyes, and huge numbers that hit your ears.
And none more so when Hayworth performs ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’ with such gusto, passion, drive and excellence. The entire audience are absolutely blown away and the extended applause and cheers affirm this. The on-stage pause tells you that you’ve just witnessed one of those memorable theatre moments that you’ll remember whenever you think back to this musical.
It’s been another brilliant show in Bradford. Undoubtedly, critics will draw comparisons between the stage and TV versions. The same will go for the representation of the lead role. Sheridan Smith’s brilliant portrayal of Cilla on TV version drew huge acclaim. But Kara Lily Hayworth has shown why she beat hundreds of others to this role. She’s out there, on her own, after an absolute show stopping performance tonight.
images: Matt Martin