Writer Jeff Pope, best known for his raw real-life crime dramas (Appropriate Adult about Fred West, See No Evil: the Moors Murders) takes a lighter touch with a three-part biography of Cilla Black.Sheridan Smith, who does her own singing when she leaps on stage, is the mouthy, giddy, burstingly ambitious young Scouser who wants more than a life lived to the accompaniment of the clacking of the typing pool. It’s 1960 and young working class Cilla White wants to be a star.Inevitably, as with any biopic, there are the occasional lumbering expositional moments: “This is George…he plays the guitar”…. “You’re in the Beatles aren’t you, we chatted with your drummer Pete Best.” But Pope’s deftness makes sure we don’t get too bogged down in such “hello, you must be John Lennon” moments as Cilla, backed by smitten likely lad Bobby Willis (Aneurin Barnard) reaches for the moon.
Sheridan Smith takes the lead role in Jeff Pope's three-part drama charting Cilla Black's rise to fame in the 1960s. As the series opens, Priscilla White is a Liverpool typist with dreams of escaping the office and becoming a singer. It looks like her chance has come when she meets songwriter Bobby Willis, who claims to be in the music industry - so she's less than impressed to later discover his flash car is hired and he actually works in a bakery. Despite this inauspicious start, Cilla agrees to let him manage her, but will their arrangement still stand after her friends, a local band by the name of the Beatles, help her land an audition with genuine impresario Brian Epstein
Reunited with Bobby, Cilla's confidence returns and she once again dazzles crowds with her vocal talents. The re-emergence of impresario Brian Epstein then propels her career to greater heights, but this is quickly followed by a new low when her first record fails to set the charts alight, despite being written by two local lads called John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Epstein suggests a change of direction, persuading the singer to take a gamble on the ballad Anyone Who Had a Heart, against her future husband's advice. Continuing Jeff Pope's three-part biopic charting Cilla Black's rise to fame in 1960s Liverpool, starring Sheridan Smith, with Aneurin Barnard and Ed Stoppard.
In 1964 Cilla has her second number one hit and gets to perform at the London Palladium. Feeling self-important she refuses to let Brian sign Bobby as a singer in his own right, claiming that she needs him to look after her. Cilla records the film theme 'Alfie', though she is derogatory about the title, as a means to break in to the American market but a trip to New York to appear on Ed Sullivan's TV show with Brian - who still seeks young men to rough him up - and Bobby does not yield immediate success and an impatient Cilla demands that they return home. Throughout the 1960s Cilla will continue to have hit records before turning to television and the loyal Bobby will always be with her. They are together when they hear of Brian's suicide in 1967, marrying two years later with Bobby being Cilla's manager until his death in 1999.