Robert Willis, eldest son of the late singer and presenter Cilla Black, has spoken about plans for ‘Cilla the Musical’.
Cilla Black: music icon and television legend in the 1960s
On today’s This Morning, Robert Willis spoke exclusively to the programme about his mother’s final wish, and how an ITV viewer could be a part of it. Explaining Cilla’s dream of wanting to turn her life story into a musical, following the popular ITV dramisation of her early career, Robert said;
“It’s very exciting and becoming very real. We open on 7th September at the wonderful Liverpool Empire, and then tour it nationally, and hopefully go into the West End next year. It’s been a long time coming… Before she [his mother] saw the script [of the ITV drama version] she was a little bit nervous about it because it’s her life story and it’s about her relationship with my dad, but once she read the script she felt a lot better, and once she saw it, she got it and was thrilled.”
Cilla became a big star of television, first with the BBC and later LWT for ITV.
On how this developed into doing Cilla the Musical, Robert told the programme that the family teamed up with writer Jeff Pope and began to discuss other ventures including a potential musical.
In the television drama Sheridan Smith performed all of Cilla’s songs live on the takes and the family felt this could easily move over to the stage and then Bill Kenwright was brought in and the idea took off. Revealing how audiences will also get to see more of his father’s musical talents in the portrayal too, Robert added;
“Dad was offered a recording contract, and he had to turn it down to focus on my mum, but what’s different is when you go from the screen onto the stage, you have to adapt it and things you can do for example… and you will see his audition, so the audience will see that he had a good voice. So if you loved the drama obviously, hopefully you’ll love the stage show. It will be different – it’s the same story, but you have to tell it differently because it’s a different medium.”
In 2013 ITV celebrated Cilla’s 50 years in showbiz with a television special.
Explaining how a This Morning viewer watching ITV earlier today could be part of his mother’s musical dream, Robert told the show that open auditions are going to take place across the country to find the stage Cilla. This Moring will follow the search for the star. On the recent statue in Liverpool and now the musical, Robert said;
“She would have loved it and it would have meant a lot to her. She loved the [ITV] drama, she was thrilled that people appreciated her as a pop singer. And what that drama did was it repositioned her as a pop singer and that’s what she always wanted. She was very committed to TV, it was a huge part of her career but in her heart of hearts, she was very youthful, and in her mind she was always a pop singer. So it was wonderful that that drama helped to do that for her.”
“We started this journey with her, and because everything changed obviously after she died, and we had to make the decision whether we went ahead with this or do we not do it… but I think for a number of reasons, partly because the script is so good, partly because she wanted it to happen, and I guess for me – maybe it’s selfish – but I miss her you know? And this kind of connects me to her. And we all want to do it for her.”
ATV Feature: Remembering Cilla Black