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You're My World, The Cilla Black Story - Melbourne Cabaret Festival

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by Donna Sue Robson (subscribe)
Donna Sue Robson specialises in the communication- and healing-arts. Jamie Natural Health and Healing is her energy-healing consultancy. Her modalities, workshops and boutique natural products can be viewed and purchased from www.jamienatural.com.
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Step Inside Love
You're My World, The Cilla Black Story, The Melbourne Cabaret Festival, Chapel Off Chapel, Danielle O'Malley
Danielle O'Malley is Cilla Black. Audience members who grew up with Britain's red-haired Diva conceded that Danielle may even sing 'better than the original.'


You know that you have just seen an extraordinary show when 48 hours later, you are still singing the songs in the bathroom or in the car. You're My World, The Cilla Black Story, now playing at the Melbourne Cabaret Festival at Chapel Off Chapel, is a clever and bird's-eye narrative of Cilla Black's hit-making career. Cilla was chosen to sing timeless love songs written by truly gifted artists such as Bacharach and Lennon/McCartney because of her natural performance charisma and voice that filled live-music venues and sold records. Danielle O'Malley is Cilla Black and was acclaimed by her own Tuesday night's audience 'as a singer who is perhaps even better than the original'.

I attended You're My World, The Cilla Black Story with a friend who 'was actually there' at the time when Cilla Black launched her career in Liverpool. She was notably emotional after the show as its stories and songs rekindled so many images and memories. This crowd, the average age of which may have been 60-65 years, were an educated audience which meant that Danielle had to get it right. Not only did Melbourne's-own songstress deliver a show that was accurate factually, Danielle had Cilla's accent, intonation and linguistic sentence-structures 'down-to-a-t'. You're My World, The Cilla Black Story takes you right back to Liverpool. Chapel Off Chapel became The Cavern.

'I loved working the crowd, 'Swingin' Cilla! they called me at The Cavern'. Danielle O'Malley as Cilla Black.

Although not classically voice-trained, Cilla Black was a lounge-room diva from the age of 7 years and has been acclaimed as a charismatic and enthralling performer. She also had the 'smarts' to get the right team around her - she was going to need great material and someone to 'have her back'. Step forward Brian Epstein and Ringo Star: Cilla was now perfectly positioned to attract the best songwriters, Lennon/McCartney and the legend, Burt Bacharach. Cilla Black connected their work to audiences world-wide. Danielle O'Malley too, demands respect for her ability to connect with an audience. In this cabaret show, it was Danielle, who reduced the audience to tears.

Cilla Black challenged and crossed boundaries which not only made her successful and sassy, but gave her the courage and confidence to stand out and deliver universally emotive songs. Her own struggle, too, no doubt, influenced her astute song choices. If there is one word to sum up Cilla's body of work it's 'passion'.

It was class and gender boundaries and 'stereotypical' images of beauty that Cilla had to break down. As well as having rare talent, natural self-confidence and a dogged work-ethic, artistic survival demanded a social game of 'outwit and outplay'. Cilla's chartbusters that included Anyone Who Had a Heart, You're My World, Alfie and Goin' Out of My Head were also a credit to her team that arose out of the Liverpool music scene. Danielle talked about Cilla's relationships with The Beatles and Brian Epstein to give the audience a real insight into the 60s music scene and how difficult it must have been for a buck-toothed docker's daughter to 'make it' big-time. Cilla Black, with Brian Epstein by her side, won the rights to sing the big hits and rivalled American mega-stars such as Dionne Warwick and Shirley Bassey.

'Growing up in Liverpool, me Da was a Docker and me Ma sold second-hand clothes at the market on Satdys. Home was full of music, me on the table, Ma singin' and Da on the piano. But even with me No.1 records, I can never forget, my Liverpool.' Danielle O'Malley as Cilla Black.

Cilla Black's story is also told through Danielle's song choices. In amongst the brassy sounds of the big numbers, there is a haunting ballad with repeated words of 'with a belt from me' Da'. Does No Silver Spoon hold a close mirror to Cilla's early life or is it a reflection on the harsh reality of dock-culture in Irish Liverpool? It is clever light-and-shade story-telling by Danielle O'Malley.

One of the most beautiful parts of the show was when Danielle sat on the lowest steps of the stage and sang, Sing A Rainbow which she dedicated to Brian Epstein. Cilla recalled gently how Brian was 'never accepted for who he was' and 'how important it is to be who you are'. Enough said: the ode was intimate and understated, exposing Cilla, the true friend and her tender 'girl-next-door' persona that she fought so hard to maintain throughout her career. Cilla Black rounded-off her tribute to Epstein with What The World Needs Now Is Love, in which the audience gladly participated.

Within her flawless Melbourne show, Danielle sliced a set of lesser-known Beatles tracks that she delivered piano-side and centre-front. Relive the 60s British Invasion with Help, Gotta Get You Into My Life, Norwegian Wood and In My Life. Again, a fascinating selection: Norwegian Wood was sung gracefully, like a lace tapestry; and In My Life, birthed new layers of honest reflection. Cilla Black 'puts a spin' on the song-writing genius of Lennon/McCartney: in her hands, there was so much more emotion than that which the Beatles-own 60s boy-band-brand ever delivered. Full credit to Danielle O'Malley for seeing the narrative relevance this collection.

'I can't imagine going through life not being accepted for who you are. Brien Epstein, you know, he always had my back. Let us now fill the room with love and light'. Danielle O'Malley as Cilla Black.

It is the strength of Cilla's feminine-interpretation that has stayed with me and is what makes Danielle O'Malley's You're My World, The Cilla Black Story so epic. Classic hits like Step Inside Love, You're My World and Anyone Who Had A Heart are true expressions of how women love and experience relationships. These are that songs that have not just been written for 'the big voices' - they are for the soul who understands the heart and its truth. Full credit to Danielle for going way beyond 'the theme' of Cilla and working within that intimate heart-space.

Danielle O'Malley is joined on stage by Shanon Whitelock (piano), Sonja Horbelt (drums/percussion) and Tamara Murphy (bass), all of whom provided strong musicianship in this show and throughout the festival. Director Dolly Diamond joined Cilla on stage to sing the finalé, Heatwave which summarised the warm, up-beat vibe of the entire festival and highlighted Danielle's generosity as a performer and her collaborative style (she was also part of the all-girl quartet, Ginger and Tonic: for Love or Money). Musical Director Mark Jones has done a superb job with this production.

Danielle O'Malley is a formidable Melbourne diva and exudes true stage presence as 'Swingin' Cilla'. Make You're My World, The Cilla Black Story part of your 2017 Melbourne Cabaret Festival experience.


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Why? To make a booking
When: 6.30pm nightly
Phone: 03 82907000
Where: Chapel Off Chapel, 12 Little Chapel Street, Prahran
Cost: $39 full price;$34 concession and for groups of six of more; $29 Friends of the Festival
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