Review: Cilla the musical at Manchester Palace Theatre

Much like Cilla’s career, the start of her musical at Manchester’s Palace started with a slight technical hitch but it did little to dampen the brilliance of what followed.

Nobody could have foretold that the quirky, feisty red-headed coat girl from Liverpool’s Cavern Club would explode into the music scene, despite of rather than because of her close friends The Beatles.

But she did and it is only right that the late Cilla’s life should be celebrated on stage, with highs and lows documented in equal measure in this musical story.

Cilla Black, born Cilla White, knew this musical was being made and, as her son explains in the programme, would have loved to be the front row of every premiere.

Instead we have to be satisfied with her spirit channelled through the narrative and music of this performance, adapted from Jeff Pope’s popular mini-series of her life and using her music and musical influences.

This production has been enthralling audiences across the UK with its inspired casting of Kara Lily Hayworth whose soaring vocals and magnetic warmth bring Cilla back to life perfectly

This is no easy task as some of the notes are VERY high.

Her task was all the tougher as her performance was marred with a few issues with sound quality on the first night of the run in Manchester but there was no doubting Kara’s and the rest of cast’s immense talent.

It is a rare moment when The Beatles don’t get top billing but here they are indeed a backdrop to Cilla’s life.

Played here by Joshua Gannon, Michael Hawkins, Alex Harford and Bill Caple, they deserve a mention for their utter brilliance, uncanny mimicking and musicality.


They are Liverpudlian working class childhood friends and allies, particularly Cilla and John Lennon, and as her musical star explodes Cilla finds her success in tandem, sharing manager Brian Epstein and becoming his female superstar.

She finds this success despite an initial failed audition where Cilla uses The Beatles as a support band and they play a song in the wrong key.

But, with the support of her manager and future husband Bobby, she soldiers on and it is their tumultuous love story which makes this this production so compelling.

There is emotion, there is humour and there is more than lip service to the darker issues of money, stardom, not least those of Cilla’s manager Brian Epstein played by the talented Andrew Lancel.

And the musical hits keep on coming, with emotional final full company rendition of ‘Through the years’.

A fantastic night, Cilla would have been very proud.

Appeared here first

I attended this performance as a member of the press but under no obligation. This is my opinion.

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