Paul O'Grady's sadness over absence of Cilla Black at panto opening night

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Paul O'Grady has spoken how how much he misses his close friend Cilla Black, especially during the recent opening night of his new pantomime.

The TV star is appearing in the star-studded new show Cinderella at the London Palladium as the Wicked Stepmother.

But, when the panto opened to great fanfare, he was really missing the presence of one of his nearest and dearest pals.

Paul O'Grady
Paul O'Grady (Stefan Rousseau PA Archive/PA Images)

Paul told The Mirror: "On the first night, Cilla would usually send me an orchid with 'sing out, Louise!' written on it.

"When I didn't get one this year ... those small touches, well, you miss people. I think of her absence and say, 'thinking of you girl'."

Cilla died in August 2015 at the age of 72 at her holiday home in Spain.

Paul O'Grady and Cilla Black
Paul O'Grady and Cilla Black (Jonathan Short AP/Press Association Images)

Paul, 61, also said that it was sad that Cilla was unable to see her long-time friend Sir Cliff Richard cleared after sex allegations made against him were dropped.

The singer, who has launched legal action against the BBC and South Yorkshire Police over the case, retreated from public life during the two-year probe that saw albums and a biography postponed.

Paul said of Cilla: "I know it worried her."

Sir Cliff Richard and Cilla Black
Sir Cliff Richard and Cilla Black (Rebecca Naden PA Archive/PA Images)

He added: "Cliff was looking a lot better than when I last saw him, he was on fine form."

"I knew Cliff through Cilla as she was a great friend of his. I have seen him quite a lot over the years."