A fter acting on screen and stage Kara Lily Hayworth has now risen to play one the UK’s best-loved national treasures.

cilla2The life of Liverpudlian legend, Cilla Black, has been fashioned into a gorgeous new musical, adapted from the critically-acclaimed ITV mini-series written by BAFTA award-winner Jeff Pope.

One of the few truly great all-round entertainers, Cilla’s career, her relationship with Bobby Willis, The Beatles and the iconic setting of the late sixties are woven together around unmistakable classics like ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’. The search for the lead was a nationwide open call that finally found Cilla in Kara Lily Hayworth. Kara’s astounding voice will be known to anyone who has seen her vocal group Zyrah Rose on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’. After acting on screen and stage she has now risen to play one the UK’s best-loved national treasures. She speaks to Toby Hambly about her extraordinary route to the role and meeting Cilla herself…

Firstly, I think congratulations are in order – ‘Cilla – The Musical’ has been nominated for Best New Musical at the WhatsOnStage Awards.

It has yeah! Which is amazing – alongside ones that are in the West End at the moment which is really lovely.

They’re voted on by the public as well.

Yeah, we’ve had an incredible audience reaction everywhere, every theatre we’ve been to so far, and it’s really lovely to know that we’ve had an impact.

It’s an extraordinary story – I admit I only knew Cilla’s career through ‘Blind Date’.

Yeah same! That’s how I knew her when I was younger – ‘Blind Date’ at my nan’s house on a Saturday.

You also met Cilla when you were younger, didn’t you?

Yeah I did – she lived not far from where I grew up. I remember we saw her in a clothes shop randomly. It was me and my mum, I think I was 12 or something like that, and I saw her and went up and asked her for her autograph and she was lovely. I said I wanted to be a singer when I was older and she said, “Oh, well, it’s a very tough industry.” I obviously ignored her advice!

Indeed, and good job you did. I wanted to ask you about the audition process, there were around 2,000 hopefuls, was doing an open audition new for you?

I did a show when I was 11, ‘Annie’, which was an open call – that was the last time that I’d done an open audition.

Kara as Cilla at Liverpool Empire © Matt Martin

Kara as Cilla at Liverpool Empire © Matt Martin

‘Annie’ with Paul O’Grady [friend of Cilla Black]?

Yes! So that’s come weirdly full circle.

It seems that there are quite a few examples of coming full circle in your story – like how the audition process ended where Cilla’s career began.

Yes, which is extraordinary – the final four girls in the auditions got to sing onstage at The Cavern where Cilla first got discovered.

Then you opened at the Empire in Liverpool.

It’s such a huge theatre and it was sold out every night. The audience reactions were just insane. There was obviously a little bit of worry, you know, playing an icon from Liverpool and not being from Liverpool myself (as you can probably tell). But the audience went absolutely nuts for it, they loved it. I sing Cilla’s first big hit, ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’, at the end of the first act, and the audience on our opening night in Liverpool just stood up for ages. I didn’t really know what to do with myself.

Wow, that’s incredible. I wanted to talk about Cilla’s classic hits. Especially on songs like ‘Step Inside Love’, I find it amazing how her voice goes from this mousey, almost timid level straight into a full belt.

Yeah, she had two completely different voices, it’s quite interesting. I think I do a little bit of that, but I don’t think I sound exactly like her or anything – I’m not doing a ‘Stars in their Eyes’.

cilla3Yes, exactly, I read that her son [‘Cilla – The Musical’ executive producer Robert Willis] said they weren’t looking for a Cilla impersonator, but more of a Cilla ‘embodier’.

Yeah. He said he they wanted someone to capture her spirit, so hopefully I’ve managed to do that. And he is just the loveliest man and it’s been amazing to hear all his stories. He obviously loves his mum a lot, and it’s a very special show so close to his heart. He’s been several times and he’s loved it every time which is amazing.

Wonderful. On a slightly different note, obviously I know you sing very well as Cilla and as part of Zyrah Rose, and you’ve acted on screen and onstage. But is the career of an all-round entertainer like Cilla Black a possibility nowadays?

I don’t know. There used to be these big variety shows on TV where [hosts] would come out and sing, and they’d have guests. TV just seems to be a bit different now. I don’t know that it’s an impossible thing, I just think maybe there hasn’t been someone like Cilla for a while.

Anything else people should know about ‘Cilla – The Musical’?

It’s got all the hits in it, all of Cilla’s and The Beatles’, but it’s also a really beautiful story with a beautiful script written by Jeff Pope – and audiences love it.



13-17 Feb Oxford, New Theatre

20-24 Feb Northampton, Derngate

27 Feb-3 Mar Newcastle, Theatre Royal

6-10 Mar Chester, Story House

13-17 Mar Bristol, Hippodrome

20-24 Mar Woking, New Victoria Theatre

3-7 April Nottingham, Theatre Royal

10-14 April Aylesbury, Waterside Theatre

17-21 April Norwich, Theatre Royal

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