“I said to Kara – your life is about to change. I’ve never seen a standing ovation in the middle of a show before.”
I’ve caught up with Andrew Lancel after the opening night of Cilla the Musical at the Liverpool Empire, and it seems if the reaction of the preview audience is anything to go by the show is already garnering a lorra lorra love.
“This musical will go on for years,” Lancel says firmly. “This will be Bill Kenwright’s new Blood Brothers.”
That’s quite a benchmark to set, but the Liverpool actor – who is reprising his stage performance as Brian Epstein to relative newcomer Kara Lily Hayworth’s Cilla – is confident it has everything audiences love; a rags-to-riches plot, happiness, pathos, grief, a central love story and some fantastic music.
Cilla the Musical images by Matt Martin
Not only does Hayworth get to belt out the Scottie Road singer’s best-known hits, but you also get The Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers and Mamas and Papas’ songs performed live on stage too.
With a script by Jeff Pope which follows his award-winning ITV mini-series, it’s certainly not a jukebox musical.
“Jeff Pope’s script is so good you could do it as a play without songs. Not that you’d want to,” says the actor, who is, remarkably considering his theatrical CV, making his debut on the Empire stage.
Bill Kenwright and co-director Bob Tomson first saw Lancel play Brian in Epstein in the West End, where it ran after a successful premiere at the, yes, you’ve guessed it, Epstein Theatre. That was in 2014 and they were toying with the idea of a musical about Cilla’s life story then.
Andrew Lancel in Epstein The Man Who Made the Beatles, pictured with Will Finlason
Three years on, with Pope and Cilla’s son Robert Willis on board (whose daughter Alana played Gretl to Lancel’s Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music), the result is being staged in front of a ‘home’ audience before embarking on a UK tour, and with a number of other Scousers in the show including Paul Broughton, Pauline Fleming, and Carl Au as Cilla’s beloved Bobby.
As for Lancel, he says it’s “nice to see Brian again and have him back. He’s had quite an influence on my life. And without Jen (Heyes) and Bill’s (Elms) production of Epstein, I wouldn’t be doing this.”
Meanwhile Hayworth beat 2,000 would-be Cillas who flocked to a series of open auditions across the country.
“It must be a bit like when Streisand came on in Funny Girl,” says her co-star of her performance. “Kara is playing Cilla in Liverpool and is smashing it out of the park.”
Cilla the Musical is at the Liverpool Empire until September 16. Book tickets HERE.