Cilla, episode 2, ITV, review: Sheridan Smith continues to shine

Cilla saw a change in fortunes and scored her first number one

Neela Debnath
Tuesday 23 September 2014 14:13
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein

When we last saw the Liverpudlian songbird she was in floods of tears after her lacklustre audition failed to impress Brian Epstein, but this week things were looking up.

Sheridan Smith continued to mesmerize as the young Cilla Black. She was all naivety and down-to-earth Scouse charm wrapped up in a bundle of nerves.

Smith has at least three musicals under her belt and two Laurence Olivier Awards to her name, but it's still uncanny to see how well she plays the young Black - both her singing and looks were on point.

Aneurin Barnard, who plays the love-struck Bobby Willis, showed that he too has a pair of pipes on him, giving an impressive little acoustic rendition of a song Willis had written.

While Cilla is more of a gentle romcom – thanks to Jeff Pope's script – than a Sixties drama, the decision to devote several scenes to Epstein's homosexuality gave an edge to the series and ensured it wasn't all fluff.

The grit of working class life in Liverpool and the underlying Catholic-Protestant tensions added texture to the drama, showing it’s certainly not all glamour and a fast-track to fame.

The second episode ended with Cilla scoring her first number one hit with a cover of Dionne Warwick's ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’.

Cilla could have easily concluded as a two-parter on this happy note and brought the mini-series to a neat close, but there is one more instalment to come.

It is yet to be seen whether the decision to devote three episodes to Cilla is a mistake, but so far it has been a joy to watch.

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