CILLA & THE SHADES Of THE 60s

Tonight’s blog comes to you from Playhouse Whitley Bay where we have the pleasure of watching a show dedicated to the late Cilla Black and all things 60’s.

Getting to the Playhouse couldn’t be any easier, it’s accessible by Car, Bus and Metro – we chose the later due to a fantastic offer, by Playhouse and Nexus, of 2 hours free Metro travel before and after each show.

Arriving in plenty of time, after a short 8 minute walk from Monkseaton Metro station, we settled on a pint and the comfy sofas in the upstairs lounge, the bar area downstairs already pretty busy.

Doors opened at 7.15pm and with drinks fully supped we took our seats, we couldn’t have asked for any better – K16/17 central and approx 11 rows from the stage, a cracking view.

The lower half of the Theatre was filling up nicely with a mixture of older couples, out for a nights entertainment, quite a few larger groups of women, wined up and eager to relive their youth and a couple who’d literally dragged their young son along for good measure, I’m sure I could hear him kicking and screaming.

Priscilla White, Cilla Black to me and you, hailed from Liverpool and started her career in the famous Cavern Club, not as a singer though – her first role was that of a Cloak Room attendant. With the 60’s charts dominated by the Merseybeat sound and rubbing shoulders with the likes of the Beatles, it wasn’t long before her musical career well and truly took off. By 1964, a year after starting out in the business, she’d had two No.1 singles and then went on to record 11 top 10’s and 8 additional top 40 singles by 1971. Tonight, taking on the role and trying to replicate our Cilla is super fan “Victoria Jones”, who, along with her band “The Shades”, are one of the UK’s top touring shows – fingers crossed they live up to their reputation.

 

While a few more Cilla fans take to their seats, 60’s music, not loud enough to silence the audience, drifts out from the stage, floating around the theatre along with the dry ice. A large screen set up on a gangway plinth, with steps for access, takes centre stage, emblazoned with a Cilla & The Shades logo lit from above by 6 vivid blue spot lights.

Finishing off the stage are 4 large white search lights on large wooden tripods, lined up on either side drawing your eye in towards the screen.

The softened background music gives way to a narration type intro regarding Cilla which is accompanied on screen by grainy black and white video footage of the era. Intro complete, the Theatre erupts to the sounds of “Shake it on Baby” belted out by the Shades (Eloise Tasker, Joanna Walters, Chanelle Nicole) and backed up with the 2 dancing Cillarettes, twisting and shouting.

Without waiting for polite applause, they then plowed straight into “Lets twist again” and twist they did – all immaculately dressed in their very short, 60’s style, mini type pinafore dresses.

With every cover performed attracting more audience participation, there was a whole lot of head nodding, swaying and hand jiving going on – one or two folks even daring to venture out into the aisles.

After a fun filled 20 minutes worth of the Shades and a quick Cilla intro, it was time for the “Girl from Scoty Road” to join in the fun.

From the moment Victoria took to the stage she owned it, imitating her idols persona brilliantly with the way she held herself, talked, moved or sung – in fact when “Anyone Who Had a Heart” filled the Theatre, it was as if the real Cilla Black had gate crashed the party. This won huge applause, followed closely by another Burt Bacharach penned hit “Alfie” which was as good if not better than the previous attempt.

At 8.15pm, after making a large dent in Cilla’s back catalogue, it was time for a break – much need by the dancing Cillarettes as they’d covered most of, if not all of the stage between them.

Chatter in the noisy bar downstairs was all positive about the show, most people couldn’t wait to get seated again and for tonight’s glittering event to continue. Some folk didn’t bother with drinks and stayed put in their seats to enjoy an ice cream or two – we couldn’t make our minds up, so tried both.

The second half took more of the same route as the first with black and white videos, a narration, then the Shades, this time dressed in silver sequined mini dresses, hammering out hit after hit from the 60’s.

The best moment of the night, for them, was the Dusty Springfield cover “You don’t have to say you love me”, with shared vocals nailed by all 3. The Shades carried on for a further half an hour performing their favourite songs from the decade including the hits “You cant hurry Love”, “I only wanna be with you”, “Shout”, “Do Ron Ron”, “Dancing in the street” and a catchy energetic rendition of “Proud Mary”.

At 9.00pm, just when the audience were thinking Cilla had left the building, surprise surprise, she appeared again, on the plinth in a green sequin mini dress, perfectly silhouetted against the bright crimson screen. Steps carefully descended, she launched straight into “Its in his kiss” and followed it with my favourite of the night “Conversations”, a song I’d never heard before, but liked immediately. “Step inside” made and appearance and had the crowd up on their feet dancing in the aisles again.

The show took an unexpected twist near the end with a live version of the popular TV show Blind date, the Shades appearing as the contestants. A request for an audience member to appear on stage to choose their date fell on deaf ears, so Jimmy the sound guy came down from his desk and stepped up to the mark. This ended up to be hilarious as Jimmy was already married and his wife was in the Theatre – all good fun and lapped up by the whole audience, even Jimmy’s wife.

A narration with video footage about the death of Cilla Black brought the show to an end, our Cilla then appeared and sung an encore of “My World” – dressed in full length white evening dress for the occasion. With deafening applause, the whole cast came back on stage for a second encore – “Rag Doll” bringing the house down.

To be totally honest, I wasn’t sure whether I’d enjoy an evening with Cilla, but enjoy it I did – along with a lot of other audience members. Take a bow “Victoria Jones, The Shades and Cillarettes – Tara Cilla!

Thanks again for the guest post –  John Gregson from Blade Printers