BWW Review: CILLA - THE MUSICAL, Bristol Hippodrome

BWW Review: CILLA - THE MUSICAL, Bristol Hippodrome

3 stars

Charting the rise of Cilla Black's pop career is a tough ask for a musical. She may have been an entertainer of superlative quality, but she lacks the back catalogue that is the engine room of similar jukebox-style shows.

As a result, the music is heavily reliant on her contemporaries. We get liberal sprinkles of The Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers and The Mamas & the Papas to give us the beat of the Swinging Sixties.

The first half passes as a largely forgettable series of vignettes of Cilla's early days in Liverpool. We get a surface look at her home life - living with her parents and working as a typist. We also get glimpses of that famous Merseybeat venue, The Cavern Club, where Cilla first plies her trade.

We're introduced to plenty of famous faces - John Lennon, Ringo Starr and Burt Bacharach - but none get the stage time to develop into meaningful portrayals. The one exception is Bobby, Cilla's eventual manager and then later husband. Carl Au gives a good account of the difficulties of being the supporting act to a star.

As said star, Kara Lily Hayworth strikes a fine balance between impersonation and homage. She ends the first act strongly with a beautiful rendition of "Anyone Who Had A Heart" and is note perfect throughout. She had a tough act to follow from Sheridan Smith in the ITV series of the same name (from which the musical was adapted), but does so admirably.

Andrew Lancel tries hard with an underwritten Brian Epstein. Arguably one of the most conflicted characters in the story, we only ever see him with Cilla in short scenes, and as such his untimely end doesn't pack much of a punch.

There are nice touches to Gary McCann's set - the red and black bricks that adorn the stage or the wood panelled offices all give us a strong sense of place and time. While Nick Riching's lighting isn't always seamless, it's transition from the UK to the bright lights of the US television studio is a joy.

Tonight at the Hippodrome went far from smoothly - missed sound cues, misbehaving lights and medical emergencies in the audience - but the cast earned their stripes as they battled through gamely.

For many, Cilla - The Musical will be a pleasing nostalgic trip accompanied by superb musicianship and vocal talent. But for those not looking for a wander down memory lane, the show lacks the necessary depth to keep you fully engaged.

Cilla - The Musical at the Bristol Hippodrome until 17 March

Photo Credit: Matt Martin

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From This Author Tim Wright

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