Standing ovations don’t get much more enthusiastic, or prolonged, than that given by a packed, and very happy, audience on Tuesday night, when Cilla the Musical took to the stage of Hull New Theatre.
First mention must go to the star of the show, leading lady Kara Lily Hayworth who perfected the crisp, clear, yet harsh, nasal tones of the much-loved entertainer, Cilla Black.
This musical charts the life of the Liverpool lass from her shy beginnings as she took to the stage at the infamous Cavern Club, in Liverpool, in the early 1960s, through to her many number one hits and subsequent TV shows.
It also charts the initial ups and downs of her romance with Bobby Willis, whom she subsequently married and who took over the role of her manager after the untimely death of Brian Epstein, who also managed The Beatles.
Bobby (a very talented Alexander Patmore) has the chance of a recording contract himself, but, selfishly, Cilla puts her diva-ish foot down, stating his job is to look after her - a job he does very well, until his death in 1999.
However, I’m jumping ahead here. Let’s go back to the beginning.
The years 1960-1963 sees young Cilla White working as a coat-check girl at the Cavern Club. Of course, she is friendly with all the young musicians, many of whom she has grown up with, and they invite her, now and again, to get up on stage to sing,
Among her most famous chums are the “Fab Four”, The Beatles, brilliantly portrayed here by Bill Caple (Ringo Starr), Michael Hawkins (John Lennon), Alex Harford (George Harrison) and Joe Etherington (Paul McCartney).
It’s thanks to them that Cilla comes to the attention of their manager, Brian Epstein (a very convincing Andrew Lancel), and a star is about to be born.
Of course, her mum and dad, Big Cilla and John White (the very entertaining Jayne Ashley and Neil Macdonald), have plenty to say about their daughter’s change of career direction, and try to persuade her to stick to her “respectable” office job.
However, a contract is signed, a name is changed – Cilla White becomes Cilla Black – and off she goes on a whirlwind of excitement, to the bright lights of London.
And always in the background is the ever-faithful Bobby, in good times and bad (records that didn’t reach number one in the charts and the deaths of his father and of Brian Epstein, whom he and Cilla had become very fond of).
The well-known hits come thick and fast and the star of the show does justice to everyone. The semi-hit, Love Of The Loved, is followed by smash singles Anyone Who Had A Heart, You’re My World, Alfie, Liverpool Lullaby (thank goodness they kept the original un-PC words), Step Inside Love, Something Tells Me and It’s For You.
The onstage energy is relentless and a feel-good factor pervades the whole show. The clever stage setting and lighting effortlessly give us a glimpse of the changing scenarios – from the White family home, to the streets of “The Pool”; the Abbey Road studios, to the famous Ed Sullivan show in America.
With musical director Scott Alder and music producer Gary Hickeson ensuring there wasn’t a duff note on the night from the on-stage musicians, it was a night of heart-lifting entertainment.
This production left us, and Cilla, on a high – I’m sure none of us needed reminding of the singer’s untimely death in 2015.
The audience rose as one for the last-but-one song, It’s For You, but I would have preferred the final song to be a rousing Cilla classic, one that we could all have left the theatre singing along to.
However, the ballad Through The Years, was a new one for me. Although beautifully sung, it did seem to temper the ebullient atmosphere somewhat. But maybe we needed calming down a bit!
Running until Saturday, September 22nd, 2018. Nightly at 7.30pm with a 2.30pm matinee on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. Tickets from £15. Call (01482) 300306; www.hulltheatres.co.uk
Reviewer: Jackie Foottit
Reviewed: 18th September 2018
North West End Rating: ★★★★★