WHEN he was a youngster Chris Weeks clearly remembers his dad returning from their local theatre in a great state of excitement.
“He’d been to a matinee of a show and thought it was so brilliant that he dragged my brother and I back for the evening performance,” said Chris.
Initially the young Chris was more thrilled to be staying up late on a school night but as soon as the curtain went up it all changed.
“It was just electric, I thought it was unbelievable,” he said. “I have still got specific images of the show in my mind from that night and what it looked liked from the audience.”
Little did Chris realise that this late night surprise would play a key role in his life.
For that show was Buddy - the Buddy Holly Story and on Monday Chris will take to the stage as Buddy Holly when the musical based on the rock and roll legend’s life arrives at The Lowry in Manchester on its 30th anniversary tour.
“Buddy has been a bucket list part for me,” he said. “It was a formative show and although I thought I’d love to do it, I never really dreamed I would get the chance.”
Chris has been sharing the lead role with A J Jenks as the show has been getting audiences out of their seats all round the country.
“I think we could do a reduced version of the show and just do it with one person as Buddy all the time but it’s so high energy,” he said. “By splitting the role, it lets us loose and allow us to be able to use all our energy which is what the show deserves.
“You don’t want to be going in thinking ‘I’ve got two performances to do tomorrow so maybe I’d better hold off a little’. You want to go for it hell for leather. It’s the rock and roll way – you have to give everything of yourself.”
The show charts the story of Buddy Holly who transformed rock and roll before his death in a plane crash aged just 22.
It features all his hits including That’ll Be The Day, Peggy Sue and True Love Ways - all performed live on stage.
When Chris isn’t playing Buddy he slips back into the band playing Niki Sullivan, his rhythm guitarist.
“It’s a circular thing with AJ and I supporting each other,” he said. “We each sort of fill in the gaps for the other.”
Buddy Holly is such a distinctive figure but Chris is very conscious that he doesn’t want to deliver an impersonation of him.
“It’s easy to imagine Buddy becoming a caricature because he was such a distinctive sounding and looking person,” said Chris. “But for us it’s about getting inside his character.
“You have to look at all these choices he made in his life – why did he sing like that? Why did he move like that? Then it’s a question of finding your own way to it.
“It’s a tricky balance to find. People expect to hear the Buddy sound. He was such a clever writer and musician, He included these things for a reason. It’s so inventive.”
Buddy - the Buddy Holly Story has become the world’s most successful rock and roll musical and the appetite for it shows no signs of diminishing.
“When I signed on for the show I thought I’d got the nature of the audience sussed,” said Chris. “In my head it would be people who remembered the music first time round and a few who had listened to it since but that in the main it would be of an older generation.
“But that’s just not the case.It’s a real broad mix of ages. I think rock and roll has had a bit of a comeback in the last 10 years and people are starting to feel it again. I think everyone loves the music and they latch on to its energy and its simple power. As a result we are getting a lot of much younger people in the audience.
“We often get groups of kids hanging round the stage door afterwards wanting to thank us for putting on the show which is wonderful. We make a point of thanking them - we have some specially commissioned guitar picks to hand out to them as a souvenir.
“The fact they wanted to come to the show and then wanted to come and say hello I think is a huge complement because kids are the most critical audience of all,” he said.
As part of the anniversary tour, Chris has had to attend various celebration events.
“People are so invested in the show,” he said, “but you can’t think about things like that too much.
“You can’t help but feel the love for the show but then it becomes a case of ‘I’d better not mess this up’ while at the same time putting you own individual take on it.
“The good thing is once you start the show you are so busy and so flat out you don’t have time to worry about anything else -thanks goodness!”
The tour began last year although the cast did get a break over Christmas but now it’s full-on with shows through until July.
“After Christmas pudding and turkey both AJ and I found ourselves out of breath. at the end of the first few shows back,” said Chris. “We both said we must have been really fit by being on the road. That’s one of the hidden benefits of being in Buddy.
You suddenly become this lean machine ready to rock and roll all night!”
n Buddy - the Buddy Holly Story, The Lowry, Salford Quays, Monday, January 27 to Saturday, February 1. Details from 0843 208 6005 or www.thelowry.com