Saturday, 17 August 2019

THEATRE REVIEW: Buddy Holly Lives - The Floral Hall, Waterfront, Southport.

Buddy Holly Lives is the brainchild of Asa Murphy who performs the leading role of Buddy Holly. It is a tribute show written and produced by Murphy which recounts the story of Holly’s musical career with a small cast of three and his backing band. Popular Liverpool DJ Billy Butler introduced the show and received a warm welcome from the Merseyside audience. He cited how the simplicity of Holly’s music struck a chord with veteran bands such as The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and Bob Dylan and mentioned that it was also the 60th anniversary of the death of Holly. Following this, a recorded tribute from Holly’s parents from USA was played thanking the fans for their loyalty and devotion to Buddy Holly and his music. Butler’s wife, Lesley played the wife of Holly’s manager and narrated parts of the story at various times throughout the show. She was lively and entertaining mimicking a southern American drawl and dressed in various 1950’s style dresses.

The staging and lighting were basic with a retro mic and a semi-circular construction of a DJ play station representing Radio KDAV, the US radio station which served the community of Lubbock, Texas where Holly lived. KDAV was later christened "The Buddy Holly Station" because young Buddy Holly performed in a country show there before he reached stardom. The station observes Buddy Holly's career the first weekend of February each year, which coincides with the time of his 1959 death in a plane crash in Iowa.

Murphy and the cast demonstrated through dialogue and music how during the 1950s KDAV broadcast an oldies format which focused on pop music of mainly rockabilly, doo-wop, and country oldies. The owners of the station at the time, Monte and Gentry Todd Spearman were keen to keep to this format. Holly was told to concentrate his performances on country music favourites and at first kept the station owners happy playing Hank Williams classics such as 'Your Cheatin’ Heart' and 'Hey, Good Lookin’'. But after seeing Elvis perform in Lubbock in 1955 Holly was captivated by his music and started singing his songs such as, 'Baby I Don’t Care' and 'Blue Days, Black Nights'. He was reprimanded for doing so, so started playing his own music concentrating on slow ballads such as 'Words Of Love' and 'Listen Closely To Me'. His iconic hit, 'That’ll Be The Day', was inspired from watching actor John Wayne after hearing him use the phrase many times in his movies popular at the time. He was eventually fired from the radio station for playing rock and roll music and being told that it will never catch on.

The Crickets, Holly’s backing band, were represented by four musicians who had gallantly stepped in at the last moment for the performance as it was originally planned for 9th August but due to problems at the theatre it had to be re-arranged for tonight and the original band were unable to perform due to prior commitments. They had only had time for one rehearsal just before the performance and can be commended on undertaking such an excellent performance.

The show went on to recall how Holly and The Crickets were then booked to appear at the Apollo in Harlem in August 1957. The promoters had booked them thinking they were black and they played rock and roll to a predominantly black audience with lots of heckling and distain. But they gained approval and the crowd were won over after Holly’s renditions of 'Oh Boy', 'Not Fade Away' and 'Rave On'. Holly went on to tour with Chuck Berry and Murphy honoured this part of Holly’s life by singing 'Brown-Eyed Handsome Man'.

After the interval, Murphy explained how Holly was the first artist of his kind to use stringed instruments on his songs for instance the beautiful ballad he then performed, 'Moondreams'. We then saw Holly working on his music in the studio with The Crickets producing songs such as 'Everyday' which Murphy encouraged the audience to sing along to alone which they did with great enjoyment. Murphy recalled how Holly had toured with The Everley Brothers and recounted Holly’s performance at the Liverpool Philharmonic in March 1958 which many of the audience had attended.
More of Holly’s hits were enjoyed by the audience singing along to 'Wishing' and the huge hit penned by Paul Anka, 'I Guess It Doesn’t Matter Anymore'. 'Raining In My Heart' and 'True Love Ways' brought spontaneous applause before we heard about the fatal winter tour of February 1959 which led to Holly’s death along with Richie Valens and The Big Bopper after appearing at the Surf Ballroom, Clear Lake, Iowa. A huge hush descended on the audience as they remembered that fatal day, commemorated by Don McLean as “The day the music died” in his colossal hit 'American Pie'. After a few minutes of remembrance, which brought a tear to some members of the audience’s eyes, Murphy raised the atmosphere by announcing that Holly’s music hadn’t died and that he still lives on in the hearts and minds of his fans and treated the audience with an uplifting 'Peggy Sue', 'Early In The Morning', 'Maybe Baby' and 'Think It Over' which had everybody up on their feet jiving and singing.

The party atmosphere continued with 'La Bamba', 'Heartbeat' and 'Oh Boy', the audience of mainly over 60s re-living their youth with jive moves and hand jives. Murphy did an excellent recital of Holly’s greatest hits and was generous in his appreciation to his fellow musicians and cast members. It was a fantastic celebration of the musical genius of the boy from Lubbock Texas, Buddy Holly and an enjoyable night of memories of his hits from his era.

Reviewer - Anne Pritchard
on - 16/8/19

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