Rock 'n' roll icon Buddy Holly's life was tragically cut short in a plane crash but his legacy lives on in a musical coming to the Beck Theatre next week. SIBA MATTI chatted to actress Felicity Chilver, who plays Buddy's wife, Maria Elena, to find out more about the show.
A SNOWY night in rural Iowa, USA, saw the meteoric career of rock 'n' roll legend, Buddy Holly, cruelly snuffed out, sending shock waves around the globe.
But more than 50 years since the fateful plane crash on February 3, 1959, which claimed the life of the hugely popular musician, 22 – together with fellow rock stars, Ritchie Valens, 17, and Jiles P 'Big Bopper' Richardson, 28 – his music continues to live on.
Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story, chronicles the life of the iconic musician, who had a profound influence on the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Elvis, Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan, and subsequently hundreds of modern day artists.
After more than a decade in the West End, the show, which has now earned the title of the most successful rock 'n' roll musical in the world, is now touring the UK and is set to delight generations of music fans when it rolls into the Beck Theatre from next Tuesday, May 9.
Actress Felicity Chilver, who plays Buddy's wife, Maria Elena, told the Gazette: "It's a very lively show and fantastic if you are a fan of Buddy Holly, but even if you aren't, you probably will be by the end.
"The show is two and a half hours chronicling Buddy's life and musical journey, from when he started off as Buddy Holly and The Crickets, a little band from Lubbock, Texas, to becoming a massive name.
"It's very uplifting and I am in awe of all the amazingly talented musicians taking part. Everyone gets up on their feet and dances, but it is also a very moving story with a tragic ending."
But Felicity, who was born in Hillingdon and attended Bishopshalt School in Uxbridge, insists the devastating plane crash is not the central focus of the show.
The 23-year-old explained: "The moment when the plane crashes is done very subtly, about half way through the concert, when a spotlight shines on the stage and a picture appears about Buddy's death.
"You often see people in the audience shedding a tear, but after a brief silence the show continues."
The story will also delve into the Buddy's personal life including his whirlwind romance with Puerto Rican-born Maria Elena, whom he proposed to just five hours after meeting her. They were married just six months before his untimely death.
Felicity, who made her stage début at the Beck aged just three, says she couldn't be happier in her current role, one of her meatiest to date.
"My past theatre credits including Joseph, Aladdin, Cinderella and Dick Whittington, so Maria Elena is different in the sense that I have to get quite emotional," she explains.
"Maria Elena is still alive today and has actually seen the show, although not with me in it, but there is still a certain amount of pressure to get things right.
"Also, a lot of fans who come and see the show can still remember when the news of Buddy's death broke in America, the day they say the music died.
"It's been pretty manic and it's hard work every night but I'm really enjoying it, it is definitely one of my favourite roles to date."
Felicity, who has also appeared on ITV drama, Kiss and Tell, and as a dancer on Blue Peter, credits her career success to her mother, local dance school owner, Lynne Chilver, and also the Beck Theatre.
"Working on the Beck Youth Theatre project for eight years has given me such a good grounding, when I first started I had only danced and never sung or acted, but it made me realise that was what I wanted to do, although I love all three," she reveals.
"It definitely helped to launch my career and I would recommend it to any aspiring actors.
"My advice for anyone who wants a performing arts career is to develop a thick skin, the industry is so competitive and there are a lot of knock backs.
"When you aren't successful at an audition, it's important to remember it's not because you aren't good enough, you are just not right for the particular part and you can't take it personally.
"It's so worth it when you do get a part you want, and when you walk out on stage, it really is the best feeling in the world."
Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story comes to the Beck Theatre from Tuesday, May 9 until Saturday, May 14. Tickets cost from £18.50 - £26.50. For more information call the box office on 020 8561 8371 or visit www.becktheatre.org.uk