Cilla the Musical: A Star is Born

Cilla the Musical opened at Birmingham’s New Alex Theatre last night and proved to be the best new musical of the year. The story of the rise to fame of the legendary Cilla Black, and her love story with Bobby Willis is an astounding piece of theatre that combines the best music of the 1960s with a poignant story, and, with incredible performances from the whole cast, this musical is set to be a new classic.

It’s 1962 and Priscilla White is a Liverpool typist who longs to be a singer. Plucking up the courage to get up on stage with a local band, she is spotted by local boy Bobby Wlllis, who is immediately smitten by her talent and personality. He offers to be her manager, although his first attempt at negotiating a contract fails miserably and sees him out of pocket every time she sings. Her friends are another Liverpool band, The Beatles, and they arrange for her to sing with them as a sort of audition for their manager, the debonair Brian Epstein. But Cilla chooses the wrong song and the audition is a disaster. With help from Bobby, she gets back on her feet and back on stage, and when Epstein chances upon Cilla singing gutsy rock and roll, he sees her potential and signs her to a contract. After one false start, Cilla is number one. But what does fame mean to her relationship with Bobby? And is the music she is singing really what is right for her. Cilla gets her fame, but also everything unwanted that comes with it.

Cast of Cilla The Musical – Liverpool Empire – Photo By Matt Martin

In the role of Cilla we have a star making performance by the incredible Kara Lily Hayworth. She is Cilla, from the voice, the mannerisms, the sparkling personality, basically everything we loved about our favourite Scouser. When she delivers ‘Anyone who had a heart’ it is literally spine tingling, the hairs on your arms just stand up, and ‘You’re my World’ is equally as good. The relationship with Bobby is fabulous, the chemistry, banter and, at times, the pain, is all there.

Kara Lily Hayworth (Cilla) – Cilla The Musical – Liverpool Empire – Photo By Matt Martin

Bobby is played by Carl Au and it is another performance that blows you away. His Bobby is cheeky, likeable and self sacrificing, he has a beautiful voice, best demonstrated on ‘A Taste of Honey’ where he gives a stunning delivery, but abandons his chance of fame to be Cilla’s rock, even though, at times, she treats him appallingly.

Completing the three central performances we have the always reliable Andrew Lancel as Brian Epstein in a performance that is filled with pathos. His deterioration, from the suave, assured manager and businessman of the early scenes, to the desperate man ravaged by his demons in his final scenes, is devastating, a heartbreaking performance that gives Cilla a dark edge.

The scene setting of the 1960s, with note perfect musical performances from The Beatles, The Mamas and the Papas (absolutely uncanny) and Gerry and the Pacemakers, all go to make this the consummate 1960s musical. Add in the sets that eerily recreate The Cavern and The Ed Sullivan show and you have a classy retelling of a fascinating story.

Kara Lily Hayworth (Cilla) – Cilla The Musical – Liverpool Empire – Photo By Matt Martin

Cilla the Musical is simply brilliant. Beg, steal of borrow a ticket. Five Stars all the way.

CILLA – THE MUSICAL

WRITTEN BY JEFF POPE

DIRECTED BY BILL KENWRIGHT & BOB TOMSON

New Alexandra Theatre Birmingham                                                    atgtickets.com/Birmingham

10 – 14 October

Fashion At The Wednesbury Museum And Art Gallery

It’s always lovely when a fashion exhibition pops up virtually on your doorstep. The Hodson Shop collection was one such delight, and this summer I have found a small fashion exhibition in the town of my youth, Wednesbury, at the town’s beautiful museum and art gallery.

The exhibition is called ‘Clothes!’ and is taking place in the museums Nostalgia Rooms. It features a range of pieces from the 1959s, 1960s and 70s, along with memorabilia and old photographs of West Bromwich, Wednesbury and the surrounding areas from the same era.

I love the clothes that are featured, these pieces are not couture or designer pieces, but are instead the sort of clothes that your mother or grandmother might have owned and worn, really pieces of social history displayed within a context. I loved the purple maxi dress with long sleeves and high neck, my mom was a bridesmaid in 1973 and wore something very similar, and a dress of a similar colour that came from the 1950s, but would still look good today due to the classic style.

The 1960s explosion of fashion is well represented, with lots of printed and plain shift dresses in the style of Mary Quant and Pierre Cardin. And, just to prove that fashion is cyclical, and that styles do come around again and again, the exhibition has a maxi style dress and a tea dress that may be 1970s in origin, but certainly wouldn’t look out of place on today’s High Street.

The Clothes! exhibition is in the Nostalgia Rooms at the Wednesbury Museum and Art Gallery until the end of 2017. Entrance is free, and you could also check out the permanent toy exhibition and the beautiful Ruskin pottery whilst you are there,

Click here for more information.

All or Nothing – The Small Faces Musical is a BIG Success

All or Nothing, the smash hit mod musical that tells the life and times of the wonderfully talented Steve Marriot and the Small Faces, arrived in Wolverhampton last night for a three night run. The story of The Small Faces, a bunch of Cockney teenagers who became one of the most biggest and most iconic bands of the 1960s, is a taundry tale of talented and youth exploited and ultimately wasted, but it also has laugh out loud moments, amazing music and a cast who are totally at the top of their game.

All or Nothing is written by Carol Harrison, perhaps best known for her role as Louise Raymond in Eastenders. She has produced an extraordinary piece of theatre, it probably is ‘the coolest musical ever’. Carol also plays the role of Kay Marriot, the mother of Steve Marriot, and a real heart of the story, a vibrant East End mother with a posh telephone voice and aspirations that her boy might one day work with Sir Laurence Olivier. Young Steve (Samuel Pope – all cheeky sass and attitude) has other ideas, his heart and soul lie in making music, and a chance meeting with Kenney Jones (Stefan Edwards) and Ronnie Lane (Stanton Wright) sets the wheels in motion for the band that will become the Small Faces. A change of personnel sees the tall Jimmy Winston(Joseph Peters) replaced by the pint sized Ian McLagan (Josh Maddison) and the classic Small Faces line up is complete and set for stardom. But fame does not bring fortune, as the band are exploited by a string of managers, and the charismatic but self destructive Marriot ruins their chances of world wide success with obnoxious behaviour that sees them banned from the likes of Top of the Pops. All or Nothing tells this story in blistering fashion, complete with a string of classic hits that are played live by a talented cast of actors who can also sing like a dream.

 

 

One of the things that makes All or Nothing such a spell binding, and ultimately tragic experience, is the narration from an older, and by now dead, Steve Marriot. Played by the brilliant Chris Simmons, it is like Marriot is looking back at his experiences, enjoying the good times, and wishing he could turn back time as he realises the mistakes he made (his band become the Faces with Rod Stewart after he left abrubtly in 1968.) Chris is exceptional in the role, he noticeably deteriorates as the play continues, mirroring what happened to Marriot, who was killed in a house fire in the early 1990s. It is heartbreaking to watch, and his final scene with mom Kay (Carol Harrison at her most poignant) is almost eerie in its sadness, particularly a final rendition of All or Nothing.

Another thing that I loved about ‘All or Nothing’ is that it superbly recreates the era of the 1960s, from a very funny episode of Top of the Pops with Daniel Beares just hilarious as Tony Blackburn, to scenes including Sonny and Cher and an incredible Dusty Springfield (Sophia Benn – just wow!). Juke Box Jury, Ready Steady Go, Andrew Loog Oldham and Rod Stewart, they are all there, and it gives the musical real resonance, not just looking at the band in splendid isolation, but placing them at the centre of Swinging London.

All or Nothing is one of the best musicals around, one with a real sad story to tell, and brilliant music that has stood the test of time.