Preston Salsa king Phil Kaila takes to the stage in Liverpool as he plays Bongo Eddie of the band Kid Creole and the Coconuts in a new one-off play written by the late musician’s partner, writes CHARLIE SMITH.
Written by Charlie Smith
One Man’s Story sees Phil become the ghost of the New York group’s legendary percussionist and vocalist, who also worked with the likes of Al Green and James Brown.
Phil has an uncanny resemblance to the American star who made Liverpool his home and, after a friend told him about the role, he auditioned and got the part.
A devoted dancer Phil, 62, says: “It’s something I never dreamed I would be involved in, a big production like this.
“They were looking for a bongo man, a tribute to Bongo Eddie.
“They wanted someone who played the bongo, danced and acted like Patrick Swayze.
“I read the script and thought that’s me.”
Bongo Eddie Folk was part of the chart-topping American pop outfit for over 30 years and first visited Merseyside in the early 1980s while touring, eventually swapping his native Brooklyn for Liverpool.
One Man’s Story is directed by the award-winning Jen Heyes and tells the tale of Bongo Eddie through
music, dance, film and prose.
Playwright Carolyn Edwards was Bongo Eddie’s partner in his later years, but she also stars alongside Phil, playing herself, in this all-singing, all-dancing story of the musician’s life.
Phil says: “She’s the main actor playing herself, which will be so hard for her.
“She can’t forget him, she’s written this story to tell her story.”
One Man’s Story marks the 10th anniversary of the Liverpool charity Genie In The Gutter, of which Bongo Eddie was a patron, in the city he called home.
Ticket sales go towards the fund-raising efforts of the organisation, which is a crucial part of Merseyside’s drug, alcohol and mental health treatment landscape.
Phil says: “We grieve for loved ones in different ways and Carolyn has decided to grieve in this way.
“She wants to put on the play to raise money for other people suffering.
“It’s for the charity and for the memory of this big, big man.”
Bongo Eddie returned to New York from Liverpool in 2013 and passed away in January 2016, following a battle with cancer.
Phil says: “It is important that we carry on his memories, we need to carry on his legacy, his work.
“He did a lot of good work.”
Phil owns and runs Salsa Northwest and in Miami in 2006 he was crowned World Salsa Federation Champion with his dance partner Leah.
He also fund-raises for the Jack and Jill school in Zambia, where many of the children are from families devastated by HIV/AIDS.
Aside from the dancing, his charity work and now acting, Phil has also found the time to help Preston bid to be a city of culture, in his role as a Cultural Governor on the City Council’s Cultural Framework board.
Phil says: “My role is to try and integrate the people.
“I am trying to come up with a 10-year plan for Preston, so people can decide how they want Preston to look.
“What we need in Preston is to use our resources to our advantage, which we have not done for a very long time.”
Clubbers young and old may also recognise Phil from the now-shut-down Cameo and Vinyl in Market Street, formerly known as Squires, where Phil was head doorman and then front of house manager from 1981-2001.
Phil has not hung up his salsa shoes, but he has made his breakthrough into acting with this production.
One Man’s Story shows at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall at 7:30pm on Friday September 7. Tickets are available from £15.30 to £30.00 via the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic website.