Cilla musical 'a wonderful project to focus on'

By Katie Spencer, Arts And Entertainment Correspondent
Cilla Black's family say the process of turning her early years into a musical has been "incredibly healing".
Robert Willis, the singer's eldest son, says it has been "a wonderful project to focus on" following her death.
The 72-year-old entertainer died of a stroke after falling over at her Spanish home just over two years ago.On Thursday night, audiences in her hometown of Liverpool were the first to see Cilla - The Musical."Bringing it to life has been great," Willis, one of the show's executive producers, explained during a break in rehearsals."It's been incredibly healing and a positive way to deal with the various emotions that you have when you're coming to terms with losing your mum and someone that meant a lot to other people as well."The singer, whose showbusiness career spanned over half a century, had known the musical was in production before she died.Willis said: "We had to make that decision - do we want to continue with this or not?"We felt that if we could do something that was like a living memorial to her, that encapsulated what she was about and entertained people, then that was the best way to remember her."The show has been adapted from the 2014 ITV mini-series which starred Sheridan Smith.It is the story of how Liverpool's best-known daughter found fame working as a cloakroom girl in the Cavern Club at the height of the Merseybeat era.
It was John Lennon who introduced Cilla to Beatles producer Brian Epstein who become her manager. The musical explains the rivalry between Epstein and her boyfriend Bobby, the man she eventually married."I just want to do her proud - everyone does," Willis admited.None more so than actress Kara Lily Hayworth who says she went from "elated to terrified" when she found out she beat thousands of others in open auditions to have the chance to play one of Britain's best-loved entertainers."I went on a whim, I thought 'well, why not? She was ginger, let's see what happens,' and so it's a quite spectacular thing to get the role."I've got some of her mannerisms and a bit of her sound but I tried not to copy her."Hayworth says she is all too aware of the challenge she faces performing some of Cilla's biggest hits."She had a big voice and I don't know if anyone really gave her credit for how incredible her voice was."Songs like Anyone Who Had A Heart and You're My World are massive songs but they're great to sing and hopefully the audience will love them as much as I like singing them."Cilla - The Musical is at Liverpool Empire Theatre until 16 September before it begins a UK-wide tour.
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