Be Bop A Lula!, a show in the style of a tribute concert, first opened in Liverpool at The Epstein Theatre in May 2014 and will now run on the first Wednesday of every month at the West End's Ambassadors Theatre, sharing the venue with “Stomp”. The press release says that the show is “set to have audiences rocking in the aisles” and this was certainly the case for the West End opening night, with couples of a certain age throwing themselves around, like they probably used to fifty years ago!! It was also good to see the audience having so much fun – and singing along to many of the songs.
Essentially the show is like going to a rock'n'roll concert, with the stars of the night being four legendary performers from the fifties and sixties: Billy Fury, Roy Orbison, Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent. Two performers play all four rock'n'rollers, with Gavin Stanley taking on Eddie Cochran and Billy Fury and Lars Young playing Roy Orbison and Gene Vincent. They are backed by The Wild Caps, a talented four-piece band. We are promised a special guest star every month and the opening night's show brought us Jerry Lee Lewis.
American singers Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent first toured the UK in 1960, but Cochran sadly never made it back home to the US after dying in a car crash over here during that tour. He was only 21 years of age. Billy Fury, from Liverpool, was also on that fateful tour. Roy Orbison is perhaps the better known of the foursome, having enjoyed a longer career than many of his contemporaries with hits (including “Pretty Woman” and “Crying” - both featured in the show) right up to his death in 1988.
The evening started off with a seemingly quiet bespectacled gentleman entering the stage, with organ music playing in the background. But this was no ordinary man - he was our Master of Ceremonies for the night - known as Rocking Reverend DJ Spencer, played by the agile Spencer Evoy from Canada. We later see him playing the saxophone and doing the splits at the same time! That is worth the ticket price alone!!
Billy Fury, in a shiny gold suit, was the first singer to take to the stage, performing four songs including a great version of “Wondrous Place”, a now sadly forgotten classic but well worth re-discovering. Roy Orbison followed, with the trademark dark sunglasses, singing one of the all-time great songs of the era: “Only The Lonely”. Eddie Cochran was next up with “C'Mon Everybody” - another fantastic song, which was revived by no less than the Sex Pistols in the late 1970s. It was then the turn of Gene Vincent, looking very mean and moody.
It was now time for our special guest - Jerry Lee Lewis. The singer was played by Peter Gill as a wide-eyed, stoned and extrovert showman. This provided us with some laugh out loud moments, which contrasted well with the more subtle performances of Fury and Orbison, who were not particularly known for their on-stage flamboyance. The hits kept on coming, with “Great Balls of Fire” and many others.
Overall, this is not the most refined and polished show you'll see in the West End, but that's not the point. The show's charm lies in its raw energy and infectious songs, most of which have become classics. Does it tick my box for being a great night out? Yes!