ANYONE who had a heart would love Cilla The Musical. It captures something of the spirit of the era in which an ambitious red-haired lass from Liverpool becomes a star.

More than that, Priscilla White evolves into Cilla Black, singer, TV presenter and a much-loved entertainer whose career in showbiz endured for more than 50 years.

The show’s executive producer is her eldest son, Robert Willis and directors are Bill Kenwright and Bob Tomson. Between them they have delivered a glimpse into the alchemy of how an ordinary teenager with huge talent found fame and fortune. They provide the vehicle; the driving force is Kara Lily Hayworth who plays the title role with aplomb and, despite an accent which is shaky in parts, recreates ‘a lorra’ of the character of ‘our Cilla’.

Her voice is wonderful and used to great effect on the big numbers that define Cilla’s early singing success, such as Anyone Who Had A Heart, You’re My World, Alfie, Step Inside Love and Something Tells Me. In fact, all the music in the show is fab. The Beatles are there, as well as appearances by the Big Three and Gerry and the Pacemakers.

Short scenes of dialogue help move the story along and the supporting cast are first class, especially husband Bobby (Alexander Patmore), her parents Big Cilla and John (Jayne Ashley and Neil MacDonald) and manager Brian Epstein (Andrew Lancel).

Staging is cleverly evocative, with the use of marvellous photographed backdrops and a sliding stage on the stage; and Hayworth has a dizzying rate of costume changes. However, at what is almost two-and-half hours’ running time, it’s either a tad too long or good value, depending on your level of affection.

The story ends as Cilla hits the big time - she was youngest female ever to have her own TV entertainment series - but her singing, her warmth and personality live on in this show. A must-see for any fan.

Dorothy Blundell