The true story of Charmian Brent (née Powell), the rebellious product of a strict 1950s upbringing, and her whirlwind romance with Ronald Biggs leading to a descent into crime, most infamously 1963's Great Train Robbery.
Sheridan Smith is British, she's sassy, she's - when required - very 1960s mod. Most noticeable 'flaw': she doesn't have the famous Cilla Black crooked front teeth... Sheridan can also sing, taking in account that it's not her profession. Still her vocals are the big problem in this TV biop. For me, and everyone else who is very familiar with Cilla Black's records, Smith's vocals are almost painful. The real Cilla had a clear and truly phenomenal voice. Soft and tender one moment, the next belting out like a fog horn. Her enemies called her a 'nasal screech', but it's for sure a voice no one can imitate easily.
The 'Alfie' recording session with Burt Bacharach almost admits it. It's true that Burt Bacharach was a perfectionist and probably demanded from all the singers he worked with to do take after take after take, but in this scene he seems to think "Cilla Who again? Give me Dionne and Dusty any time." Well, Cilla Black was more than up to her 1960's contemporaries. Listen to the authentic Alfie recording session as can be found on YouTube. It may have been her 3rd or 30th take, but she leaves you breathless. What a voice, what an emotion. (A question for the director or costumer, though. In the Alfie studio session scene, Sheridan sports Cilla Black's new hair style for 1966. Why not the quite iconic Mary Quant dress as well?)
It must be very difficult to find actors who look like famous people as they were in their younger days. I found Brian Epstein too handsome and well-mannered. George Martin and Ringo Star fared better, and the actor who played Cilla's boyfriend aka roadmanager and future husband Bobby Willis is the spitting image of the real one. But when I fail to recognize Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Pete Best at all, it's both confusing and distracting.
What leading lady Sheridan Smith lacks in vocal similarities, she more than makes up in looks and charisma. She is Cilla Black as I remember her from the 1964-1965 TV appearances. In fact, it's Sheridan who gloriously saves the 3-episode series 'Cilla' from being a major drag. And had the vocals been play-backed, I would have awarded this with a 10.
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