Following in the footsteps of popular concert musicals like Let It Be (Garrick Theatre) and Thriller Live (Lyric Theatre), comes Be Bop A Lula, celebrating the music of four rock ’n’ roll legends: Billy Fury, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and Roy Orbison. The show comes to the Ambassadors Theatre in London’s West End on the first Wednesday of each month, and will next be here on 6th May.
Be Bop A Lula at the Ambassadors Theatre Review:
The four stars are played by two singers, who each take their turn in the spotlight to allow the other one to run off and change character. Gavin Stanley is Billy Fury and Eddie Cochran, while Lars Young has the arguably tougher job as Gene Vincent and Roy Orbison. It’s all held together by Spencer Evoy, a host and saxophonist so charismatic that at times he’s in danger of stealing the show completely, and a four-piece band called The Wild Caps, who look like they’re having the absolute time of their lives. The bass player, Pete Pritchard, was my particular favourite. I can’t remember the last time I saw someone so delighted to be on stage; it was genuinely quite infectious, and I found myself smiling every time I looked at him.
Now, as to the music itself, I’ll be honest: I was born in the 80s, and grew up with the likes of Chesney Hawkes and Bros (and then, later, the embarrassing East 17 years, but the less said about that the better). So these four artists, who were big in the 50s and 60s, are just a few years before my time, and as a result I didn’t know all the songs. Fortunately, though, it’s the kind of music you don’t really need to know to enjoy, and I spent the evening happily bopping in my seat and admiring the talented musicians at work. And of course there were some hits I recognised: 'Oh', 'Pretty Woman', 'C’mon Everybody', 'Halfway To Paradise', and of course the song the show’s named for, 'Be Bop A Lula'. There’s also a special guest star, who doesn’t appear on the posters but who, as it turned out, was someone I used to listen to a lot growing up, because my mum was a big fan of his music. I won’t ruin the surprise by telling you who it was, but he was great and certainly got everyone rockin’ and rollin’.
Unless you’re a die-hard fan of one or more of the artists, I think it’s fair to say the show really hits its stride in the second half. It’s then that you get to see more interaction between the stars (although only two at a time, obviously) and remember that they were actually friends in real life. The second half is also when you get to hear some of the more well-known hits. And by the end, the whole audience is on its feet having a boogie - not to mention the two ladies who were doing a full-on jive in the aisle to my left.
I can’t comment on the accuracy of the singers’ impersonations, but judging by the enthusiastic reactions of other audience members, I’m going to assume they were pretty good. Either way, Be Bop A Lula at the Ambassadors Theatre is a really entertaining night out, which might well make you wish you’d lived in the 50s, and I’m sure brought back good memories for those audience members who actually did. Personally, I left the theatre with a sudden desperate urge to learn how to jive. I probably won’t do it, but you never know...
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