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Sheridan Smith is pure class AND She performs all the songs herself. This young lady has a great future ahead of her. This could well move on to Londons West End and be big success. Well done ITV for giving people what they want.
Miss Black is on record herself as saying her lifestyle even in the swinging 60's was hardly rock and roll even with her association with the Beatles who mentored her and wrote some of her hit songs. Thus you won't find too much excitement or danger in her rags to riches story, besides some religious tension between her Protestant family upbringing and that of her Catholic boyfriend and road manager, later her manager and husband Bobby Willis, the usual ups and downs of her relationship with Willis, some strain between her and a distracted Brian Epstein, plus of course her rise to fame from Cavern hat-check girl to appearing on the London Palladium and topping the charts.
Sheridan Smith, who does all her own singing too and Aneurin Bernard are personable in these two main roles although a lack of likeness in other key parts, such as the Beatles and Epstein weakens veracity a touch. Some licence is taken with the facts too, like Cilla being told her record has magically made it to number 1 as if from nowhere when in reality it took weeks to climb to the top. I could also have done with a little less concentration on the troubled Epstein's unconventional personal life which probably belongs in a bio-drama of its own.
Nevertheless this was pleasant and likable if slightly over-polite (well, Cilla is still alive and something of a national treasure, I guess you'd say) entertainment with some good songs and performances thrown in for good measure.
Nonetheless Paul Whittington's drama proves compelling viewing. This is chiefly due to a series of stellar performances - although Sheridan Smith bears little facial resemblance to the character she lays, she communicates Black's verbal and gestural nuances perfectly, that combination of sheer drive and homespun charm that helped Black to remain at the top of her profession for thirty-plus years. Smith also has a wonderful singing voice: at the end of each of the three parts, we are told that she sang everything live. This is quite the best characterization I have seen from this talented actress.
Smith is admirably complimented by Aneurin Barnard as her road manager (and later her husband) Bobby Willis. Initially he comes across as a bit of a lad, someone who willingly lies about his age and profession in order to pursue the girl of his dreams. As time passes, however, so he understands the depth of his attraction to Cilla; he even passes up the chance of a stellar career of his own in order to be with her. The love-scenes between the two are really touching, as we understand how they were simply made for one another. Especially in her early career, Cilla could not record without seeing Bobby out of the corner of her eye.
As Brian Epstein, Ed Stoppard has a difficult role to play as a stellar manager with a complicated - not to say disastrous - private life at a time when homosexuality was still a crime. We understand a lot about his contradictions; his brilliant flair for publicity and/or finding the right people to further Cilla's burgeoning career, allied to his desperate need for love, something that he can never find. Epstein was the rock upon which Cilla constructed her career - although never in love with him, she found she could seldom do without him. In a poignant sequence set in a hotel restaurant, she learns of his premature death through an overdose of sleeping-pills, and collapses into Bobby's arms.
Stylistically speaking CILLA's narrative comprises a series of intimate sequences that convincingly recreate the atmosphere of early Sixties Liverpool and London Director Whittington is also fond of the aerial shot that gives a panorama of the industrial landscapes in which Black grew up. While certain aspects of her life have been omitted - notably her stint as a server in a restaurant - Jeff Pope's script vividly recaptures her social background in which religion and morality played such a significant part. This three-part biopic is definitely worth watching, not only for its entertainment value but for its evocation of a long-vanished world of working-class life.
Come on ITV - find some way to continue this story!
Having said that it is well produced and reasonably acted. It is quite entertaining if you like the period and accept it as a biopic which overlooks some of the facts like she was a waitress at the Zodiac cafe.
You will enjoy the program if you can overlook some of the details.
The main actress is likable, believable and performs well in the role. Her future husband comes across as rather doe eyed and almost submissive. The Beatles characters lack any depth and I think would have already been to Germany once by then if the year is supposed to be 1960/61.
I have only watched the first two of the three parts.
The 'Alfie' recording session with Burt Bacharach almost admits it. It's true that Burt Bacharach was a perfectionist and probably demanded from all the singers he worked with to do take after take after take, but in this scene he seems to think "Cilla Who again? Give me Dionne and Dusty any time." Well, Cilla Black was more than up to her 1960's contemporaries. Listen to the authentic Alfie recording session as can be found on YouTube. It may have been her 3rd or 30th take, but she leaves you breathless. What a voice, what an emotion. (A question for the director or costumer, though. In the Alfie studio session scene, Sheridan sports Cilla Black's new hair style for 1966. Why not the quite iconic Mary Quant dress as well?)
It must be very difficult to find actors who look like famous people as they were in their younger days. I found Brian Epstein too handsome and well-mannered. George Martin and Ringo Star fared better, and the actor who played Cilla's boyfriend aka roadmanager and future husband Bobby Willis is the spitting image of the real one. But when I fail to recognize Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Pete Best at all, it's both confusing and distracting.
What leading lady Sheridan Smith lacks in vocal similarities, she more than makes up in looks and charisma. She is Cilla Black as I remember her from the 1964-1965 TV appearances. In fact, it's Sheridan who gloriously saves the 3-episode series 'Cilla' from being a major drag. And had the vocals been play-backed, I would have awarded this with a 10.
As well as focusing on Cilla's career, you also get to see what Brian Epstein was like too. To The Beatles fans, Epstein is well known. or at least his name is known, I learnt several things thanks to this drama!
Many of the key moments are well researched. For example, in the third episode where Cilla sings 'Alfie' for Burt Bacharach, I had just seen the same real life clip on YouTube.
Some might dispute how much of The Beatles' involvement in Cilla's early career is accurate, but it was completely believable!
All in all, great mini-series, and to answer another reviewer's hope for more episodes, sadly there won't be as the real life picture and pre-credit notes filled in those gaps.
Sheridan Smith Cilla who until recently was more known for comedies plays Cilla and also does her own singing here.
Aneurin Barnard plays Bobby her early manager, lover and later her husband. However I found his hairdo which might had been a wig rather off putting.
The film is a straightforward drama of a wannabe singer plucked out in the Merseybeat 1960s, who gets the attention of Brian Epstein, becomes buddies with the Beatles, tries to break America and later on takes her first steps on television. You see her blossoming relationship with Bobby across the religious divide, he seems rather too credulous being in awe of her and later of Epstein. Although given that Epstein was the manager of the biggest pop band in the world that's hardly a surprise.
The drama is personable as the late Miss Black. Rather inoffensive and somewhat bland. You always get the feeling that some liberties have been taken with the truth.
As a kid I remember The Cilla Black Show on Saturdays nights on BBC1. This was years before she became a mainstay on ITV's Blind Date. Once the pop hits start to dry up and tastes started to change she rather niftily moved to television and stayed there for several decades. You do not get to stay at the top of the showbusiness ladder, a cutthroat world by just being cheeky and nice. There was more to Cilla and Bobby but it was not covered here.
How cutthroat is showbusiness? Just before he died, The Beatles left Epstein's management. Just imagine some chancer got hold of Lennon and McCartney and persuaded them that they could be a better manager than the man who made them the biggest band in the world!