Audience dance in aisles at Buddy Holly show
By Ron Ellis
Buddy Holly Lives
Floral Hall, Southport
BACK in the Eighties I interviewed singer Mike Berry whose 1961 hit single, Tribute to Buddy Holly, had made his name. He told me he’d been lucky with the timing as ‘nowadays I’d be billed not as Mike Berry but a ‘Buddy Holly Tribute’ act’.
Well, Buddy Holly Lives is not a tribute act. Far from it. It’s a full-size theatrical production telling the story of Buddy Holly’s life and featuring a cast of actors, a backing band of professional musicians plus a series of films showing scenes of Buddy Holly’s career projected onto a giant screen at the back of the stage.
Compere, Billy Butler, opened the show by thanking the audience for coming and apologizing for the show being cancelled the previous week due to ‘structural problems at the theatre’, which is why the venue was changed to the Floral Hall.
In fact the change of date also meant that a new backing band had to be hired as the original members had prior commitments and more than 100 people had money refunded as they were unable to attend on the new date. Luckily, the Floral Hall was packed on the night and the audience entered into the spirit of things, soon dancing in the aisles.
Billy played a taped message from Buddy Holly’s parents after which Lesley Butler came on as Vi Petty, pianist on Buddy’s records and wife of producer Norman Petty, and she acted as narrator for the evening, recounting Buddy’s rise to fame from his home in Lubbock, Texas to international stardom. Local actor, Ronnie Orr, played Texan D.J. Dave ‘Pappy’ Stone.
Finally, Asa Murphy, who wrote and produced the show, and is from Maghull, arrived onstage, looking eerily like Buddy Holly with his trademark black-rimmed glasses, and proceeded to thrill the audience as he sang his way through the Buddy Holly songbook.
Sadly, there were no facilities in the replacement venue for showing the film clips, which were an integral part of the show, and, despite the sterling efforts of hastily recruited sound engineers, the sound quality in this building was not of the best for this type of show.
However, the enthusiasm of the cast and the reaction of the audience to the well-loved rock’n’roll classics made the evening worthwhile.
Asa Murphy's next venture is Mack the Knife' -The Bobby Darin Story which is being premiered at Liverpool’s Epstein Theatre at 2.30pm and 7.30pm on October 4. Meanwhile, his regular radio show is on BBC Radio Merseyside every Sunday at 5pm.
Star rating: 7 out of 10. Despite the setbacks, the music got the audience dancing