Cilla The Musical Leeds Grand Theatre
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Review of Cilla The Musical – The Grand Theatre, Leeds

It’s been four years since the brilliant Sheridan Smith appeared as Cilla Black in the ITV drama.

Her achingly good portrayal of the singer lauded rave reviews and was a big hit with the audience.

The TV show revitalised interest in Cilla and her rise to becoming a national treasure.

As a child of the 80’s, I spent many a Saturday night watching her in Blind Date and Surprise, Surprise. While I knew she had been a singer before her successful TV career, I had little knowledge about her background in music and subsequent rise to stardom.

We saw the silver screen immortalise her early career from cloakroom assistant to typist and then singer. We saw how, with a little help from her friends, Priscilla White became one of the most loved entertainers of our time. After she passed away, her statue was erected outside the Cavern where she sang with her mates, The Beatles.

It is of little surprise that her heart-warming story was picked up and adapted for the stage.

I was delighted to be invited to go along with my friend, who had press tickets. The Grand Theatre in Leeds is a wonderful venue rich in history and culture. It regularly plays host to the Northern Ballet, world-renowned productions, comedians and local theatre.

Tickets Cilla The Musical Leeds The Grand Theatre

The show was written by BAFTA award winner Jeff Pope, who also penned the TV show.  I adored the TV version of Cilla’s story and could not wait to see how it translated to the screen.

I was not disappointed.

We are transported back to 60’s Liverpool and invited into The Cavern, where a little band (you might’ve heard of them) called ‘The Beatles’ play to an energetic crowd.

Songs from the era provide the soundtrack to the musical and also gives us a first glimpse of how special Cilla was as a performer.

Kara Lily Haworth beat thousands to of hopefuls in nationwide auditions to play Cilla. I thought I’d perhaps surreptitiously be comparing her Cilla to Sheridan Smith’s, but she made the role her own.

Her vocal performance was flawless and I turned into a giant goosebump as she sang Anyone Who Had a Heart at the end of the first act. Written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, the song earned Cilla her first number one in 1964.

It’s an incredible story and hard to comprehend that by the age of just 25, Cilla had become one of our most beloved entertainers.

The story explored Cilla’s relationship with her beloved Bobby, played by Alexander Patmore. I loved their on-stage chemistry. The portrayal of their relationship and him putting her dreams before his own was very moving – something I can’t remember picking up on in the TV show.

We were introduced to music mogul Brian Epstein who is famed for being the manager of The Beatles. Epstein is played by Andrew Lancel who gives an outstanding performance and I would have loved that narrative to have been explored more.

With a soundtrack from the 60s, Beatles classics, touches of warmth and humour and a heavy dose of nostalgia, this stage show is certainly a crowd pleaser. The superb supporting cast and musicians all earned a standing ovation from the audience, which just proves that if you’re off to see this show, you’re in for a lorra lorra fun.

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Freelance writer and founder of CubKit and McCarthy Copywriting

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