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Review: Cilla the Musical

When I interviewed Cilla Black’s son Robert Willis during the auditions for Cilla The Musical a few months ago, he said they were looking for an actress with raw talent to play the title role of his mother, as it was this type of talent that propelled Cilla herself to stardom. Robert, and the writer of the musical, BAFTA award-winning Jeff Pope, certainly found her by casting Kara Lily Hayworth as the lead. At the opening night of Cilla The Musical Kara, and the accompanying cast, brought the house down at New Wimbledon Theatre, thanks to a mix of sensational vocals, toe-tapping (and aisle-dancing) music, authentic staging and a beautifully written, heart-warming story.

The musical charts the rise of one of Britain’s much-loved singers and TV personalities, from her days singing at The Cavern in Liverpool with The Beatles back in the early 1960s, and her budding relationships with husband-to-be Bobby Willis and manager Brian Epstein, to her successful move into TV at the end of the decade. Kara Lily Hayworth doesn’t do an impression of Cilla, instead she embodies all the charm that Cilla was famous for and yet brings her own spirit to Cilla’s famous songs. Plus she nails the accent!

If you love 60s music and styling you’ll love this show – the guys who play The Beatles are incredible – and there’s plenty of comic moments interspersed with poignant episodes. The whole cast work well together, particularly Cilla with Carl Au who plays Bobby Willis, yet it really is Kara Lily Hayworth who – quite rightly – steals the show. I wouldn’t be surprised if her star ascended as high as that of Cilla’s.

Playing at New Wimbledon Theatre until 11 November.
Buy tickets here

Cilla the Musical - photo by Matt Martin