What’s it all about..? Hopefuls vie to be next Cilla Black

Four of the hopefuls auditioning for the lead role in Cilla The Musical at The Playhouse, with Cilla's son Robert Willis are - left to right - Emma Craigen, Courtney Dignan, Reaghan Reilly, Trudy O'Neill
Four of the hopefuls auditioning for the lead role in Cilla The Musical at The Playhouse, with Cilla's son Robert Willis are - left to right - Emma Craigen, Courtney Dignan, Reaghan Reilly, Trudy O'Neill
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MORE than 120 young hopefuls were invited to ‘step inside, love’ when the search for an unknown star to play Cilla Black in a new musical about her life came to town this morning.

Looking for a ‘charismatic and talented actress with a great voice,’ producers of Cilla: The Musical, led by Cilla’s son Robert Willis, the show’s Executive Producer, arrived at The Playhouse to put would-be stars through their paces in the second of four open auditions.

Cilla: The Musical, an adaptation of the ITV mini-series based on the stars early years, follows the extraordinary life of the ordinary teenage girl from Liverpool, Priscilla White, and her rocky, yet incredible, rise to fame.

By the age of just 25 she was international singing star Cilla Black. By the age of 30, one of Britain’s favourite TV presenters fronting series’ of Blind Date, Surprise Surprise and many more.

Willis says, “It’s great we’ve been able to bring these auditions to the Scottish Capital.

“We’re excited to be looking for that undiscovered character and talent in someone to take on the lead role.”

One of those auditioning was Courtney Dignan from Livingston, the 22-year-old who attended St Margaret’s High has dreamed of being on stage since being cast in a P7 production of The Jungle Book.

“I played the commanding elephant,” she laughs, “the one that led the pack. He had one line: ‘Company Halt’. But it gave me the bug. Since then all I’ve wanted to do is be on the stage... to perform.”

Dignan, who studied at the Glasgow Academy Musical Theatre Arts says she was “more excited than nervous” when she arrived at the Playhouse.

“We were asked to sing a song in the style of 60s Liverpool but I thought everyone would sing one of Cilla’s songs so I chose What A Wonderful World, by Louis Armstrong,” she reveals.

“I didn’t try to do her accent, but when you listen to her singing, she doesn’t have an accent. So I just sang it as me.”

The actress also did some research on Cilla.

“Some of my family knew her songs better than I did, but I was a fan, I guess everybody is a fan of Cilla.

“She was a big part of everyone’s life and Blind Date was one of my favourite programmes as a youngster.”

She adds, “Her attitude towards wanting something so much, is something we have in common.”

Dignan will now have a three week wait to discover if she has been successful.

“It’s going to be a long three weeks,” she says.

Willis adds that he and fellow producers have been impressed by the city’s talent.

“We’ve had a great turnout in Edinburgh. With over 120 registrations we’re hoping to find that person who also dreams big and has the talent to match, but just needs the chance to show it. Whilst Edinburgh is only the second stop on our search for the next Cilla, myself and the other creatives have been impressed by the enthusiasm and ambition of those we’ve seen.”

Cilla: The Musical runs at The Playhouse from 19-23 September. Tickets priced £17.90 to £56.40 are on sale now.