LIVERPOOL lass Cilla Black ended up living in Buckinghamshire. Musical actress Kara Lily Hayworth has made the opposite journey to play Cilla in a new musical that has “West End here we come” written all over it.

Hayworth beat thousands of hopefuls to land the role in the premiere tour after ten rounds of auditions and a sing-off at The Cavern, and far from a surprise, surprise, she turns out to be seriously good in her first redhead role since playing Annie two decades ago.

If you enjoyed the television mini-series of Cilla with Sheridan Smith in 2014, then you will be delighted to learn that Cilla, The Musical has the same writer, Jeff Pope, whose original intention had been to create a musical.

Add the production nous of impresario/director Bill Kenwright and co-director Bob Tomson, and such a strong story that takes in not only Cilla and husband Bobby, but The Beatles, Brian Epstein, George Martin, Burt Bacharach, Ed Sullivan, Liverpool, religion and football, and here is a palpable hit that can rival Buddy, The Musical and The Kinks’ Sunny Afternoon.

We begin in 1962, in Scottie Road, Liverpool, with Hayworth’s gawky Cilla living with her mam (Pauline Fleming’s Big Cilla) and proudly Catholic Merchant Navy dad (Neil MacDonald’s John White); she’s one of the girls in the typing pool but she has a singing voice and a natural manner that attracts the attention of cheeky chappy Bobby (Carl Au), pre-Beatles Ringo Starr (Bill Caple) and the group The Big Three.

So begins the journey that will take Cilla to the top, to a misfit flop in America, and all the while a burgeoning if bumpy relationship with Bobby. The show is built around the songs, not only Cilla’s hits, but also Beatles tunes, even a Mamas And The Papas number, but Pope’s script is superb too: amusing, moving, dramatic, with a keen sense of Liverpool, enhanced by Gary McCann’s set design, which captures Scottie Road and Abbey Road studios alike.

The love story of Cilla and Bobby is the show’s heartbeat, climaxing with their duet of Cilla’s 1965 hit, You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’, and Pope does not shy away from Cilla, like in so many singers’ stories, becoming more demanding of those around her. Both Hayworth, whose Cilla accent is uncannily accurate, and Au are terrific in these scenes.

A second storyline tugs at you: gentleman manager Brian Epstein, guiding the paths of The Fab Four and Cilla alike but never far from trouble in his clandestine homosexual pursuits. Andrew Lancel, such a consistently outstanding actor, is superb in this role, and his version of You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away gives John Lennon’s song heightened meaning.

Michael Hawkins’ Lennon is good value too, whether singing Twist And Shout or calling Cilla “Cyril”. You may not have loved Cilla’s voice, but Hayworth is a knock-out and you’ll love Cilla, The Musical.

Cilla, The Musical, runs at Grand Opera House, York, until Saturday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm, Thursday and Saturday. Box office: 0844 871 3024 or at