Kara Lily Hayworth as Cilla Black in CILLA THE MUSICAL. Photo: Matt Martin

Kara Lily Hayworth as Cilla Black in CILLA THE MUSICAL. Photo: Matt Martin

Kara Lily Hayworth talks about taking on the iconic role of Cilla Black in CILLA THE MUSICAL

Following the success of the critically acclaimed ITV mini-series, CILLA THE MUSICAL finally heads to Salford’s The Lowry next week for a week-long run.

Based on the life of Cilla Black, CILLA THE MUSICAL follows the extraordinary life of the ordinary teenage girl from Liverpool, Priscilla White, and her rocky, yet incredible, rise to fame.
The musical features a superb 60s score including Cilla’s greatest hits ANYONE WHO HAD A HEART, ALFIE and SOMETHING TELLS ME, as well as TWIST AND SHOUT by The Beatles, CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’ by The Mamas and The Papas and many more.

Ahead of its run at Salford’s The Lowry, lead actor Kara Lily Hayworth talks to Matthew Amer about playing the British entertainment icon and how audiences across the country has responded so far to CILLA THE MUSICAL.

What can you tell us about CILLA THE MUSICAL?

In essence, it’s a beautiful love story. It follows Cilla Black’s rise to fame, but underneath it’s about her relationship with Bobby and their journey. You watch how they progress and how Cilla becoming a star affects their relationship.

The audiences love all the music. All of Cilla’s hits are in there – ANYONE WHO HAD A HEART, YOU’RE MY WORLD, ALFIE, STEP INSIDE LOVE – but there’s also early Beatles songs as well, Gerry And The Pacemakers, The Mamas & The Papas. But it’s not a jukebox musical. It’s a play with truly fantastic songs woven into it.

What’s it like playing Cilla Black?

She’s an absolute icon. I sing 18 songs in the show, so it’s tough vocally, but I feel incredibly lucky to be able to play her. When people come to stage door and share their memories of her, it reminds me how special it is and how much it means for me to portray someone who had such an influence on their lives.

Is it challenging playing someone who is so well-known and cherished?

The hardest thing to get across is that magic she had that made audiences fall in love with her. That’s what she was so good at; whatever she was doing, people just fell in love with her. That’s the hardest thing.

The trick is trying to capture her essence. I’m not doing an impersonation, but I’ve adopted certain mannerisms. It’s my own take on it. Hopefully, I’ve included little things that remind people of her without mimicking her.

Kara Lily Hayworth as Cilla Black in CILLA THE MUSICAL. Photo: Matt Martin

Kara Lily Hayworth as Cilla Black in CILLA THE MUSICAL. Photo: Matt Martin

You premiered the show in Liverpool, Cilla’s hometown. How was that?

It was incredible. I was extremely nervous playing a Liverpudlian icon in Liverpool. I didn’t know if they’d like the show or if they’d like me. I sing ANYONE WHO HAD A HEART, her first number one hit, at the end of the first act. At that point, everyone stood up and everything just stopped. That was an extraordinary moment that I won’t forget. It’s always a real high point in the show. It’s the first time the audience sees her really become a star.

How do you find touring with the show?

Touring’s great. Going to a different theatre every week with different audiences keeps the show fresh. This is the first time I’ve toured a production for this long, so it’s been a new experience. But it’s lovely because you become a real family with the cast.

Is there anywhere you’re particularly looking forward to taking the tour?

We’re going to New Brighton. That will be a really good one because that’s the closest we’ll have been to Cilla’s home since we opened at the Liverpool Empire.

And we’re going to Bromley, which is the closest theatre to London, so I’ll have lots of family and friends coming to those dates.

Did you ever meet Cilla?

I did, when I was about 10. I played Annie opposite Paul O’Grady and he was one of Cilla’s friends. I met her in a clothes shop and told her that I’d worked with Paul and I was going to be a performer when I was older. She told me it was a tough industry. I’ve still got her autograph at home in a frame.

She was right, of course. It’s mad how things can change so quickly. A year or two ago, I struggled to even get auditions. I left drama school in 2010 and didn’t get any parts for two or three years. I signed with a different acting agent and everything changed.

It was my agent who thought I’d be good for this role, but I didn’t think I’d have a chance at open auditions. A friend of mine was going, so we went together to just see what might happen. It just goes to show, you have to believe that things happen for a reason. The jobs you don’t get mean you’re available for the perfect role that comes along next. Like this.

CILLA THE MUSICAL runs at The Lowry Salford from 28 August to 1 September 2018.