When Kara Lily Hayworth bumped into Cilla Black at the age of 11 and told the star she wanted to be an actress, Cilla’s advice was to “go for it”.
Hayworth followed her instruction. Now 28, she has won her first major role appearing as the star on stage.
She will play the late singer and TV host in Cilla The Musical, which will use songs like Anyone Who Had a Heart and Alfie to tell her life story.
It will open in Liverpool, Cilla’s home city, in September before a UK tour.
Hayworth, from Watford, tried out at one of a number of open auditions that were held around the country.
She won the role at a final round of auditions at Liverpool’s Cavern Club, where Cilla started out.
Hayworth said: “When I was 11 I was shopping with my mum and bumped into Cilla and asked her for an autograph.
“I told her I wanted to be an actress – she laughed and said, ‘It’s a tough industry, but if you really work hard and go for it, you’ll be just fine’.
“She was a huge inspiration to me as a child. I grew up watching her on Blind Date every Saturday night with my nan. To be chosen to play her is such an honour and I’m so excited to take on the role.”
Hayworth trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama. Cilla’s son Robert Willis said: “We wanted somebody who wasn’t going to impersonate my mum but someone who could capture her spirit.
“Kara came in with her huge personality and amazing voice – when I saw the response of the audience at the Cavern, I knew she was the one my mum would have wanted!”
The show is being adapted from the 2014 three-part ITV drama that starred Sheridan Smith in the central role.
Cilla Black was one of Britain’s biggest singing stars of the 1960s before switching to TV and achieving national treasure status as the host of Blind Date and Surprise, Surprise.
The new musical will open at the Liverpool Empire on 7 September – just after the second anniversary of her death at the age of 72.