The actress who wins the role of Cilla in a new stage musical about the Liverpool singer’s rise to fame will need to combine confidence and vulnerability her son says.
Cilla’s eldest son Robert Willis was at the Liverpool Empire today, where hundreds of hopefuls had registered to sing at the open auditions for Cilla the Musical.
The new show has its world premiere at the Lime Street theatre in September ahead of a national tour.
Talking about what he was looking for in a potential Cilla, Robert said: “I think it’s a combination of the confidence of the personality, the confidence she had on stage, but also the vulnerability that she had as well.
“This is Cilla from 18 to 25, it’s not looking at the Blind Date and Surprise Surprise years, it’s the early years when she was learning her craft.
“It’s also about ambition and it’s a love story too."
Cilla the Musical is being produced by Robert along with Bill Kenwright and Laurie Mansfield, and the book has been penned by Jeff Pope, the screenwriter behind the award-winning Cilla starring Sheridan Smith on ITV.
Robert, who described today’s turnout of hopefuls as “fantastic”, reveals he and Jeff Pope – who is also behind the moving Rhys Jones drama Little Boy Blue – first spoke about the idea of a stage musical when the TV mini-series was being made in 2014.
And he also raised it with his mum.
He says: “Jeff is such a brilliant dramatist, but he’s never done a stage show.
“We started talking and I said would you be up for that? I spoke to my mum. She was a little bit reticent about the drama itself before (it was shot) because it covered the romance with my dad, and her life. When you’ve lived it, it’s difficult to see it up there on the screen.
“But it was such a great show, and after the success of the drama we spoke to her about would she be up for it if we turned it in to a stage show, and she was thrilled.”
Robert Willis chats to girls in the audition queue
Open auditions are taking place in Liverpool, Birmingham, Edinburgh and London over the next two weeks, and hopefuls had travelled from far and wide to queue outside the Empire today.
Lucy Carter, 18, from the Leeds area, said: “I came because Cilla was such an inspiration to women, and what she stands for is really great. She showed you didn’t need to come from a wealthy background to be a success.
“This is a fabulous experience and it’s lovely to come to an open call.”
Cilla the Musical opens at the Liverpool Empire on September 7. Tickets from the website HERE.