Writer: Alan Janes
Director: Adrian Rees
Reviewer: Dominic Corr
The Day the Music Died was how musician Don McLean commemorated the passing of fifties Rock & Roller Buddy Holly. Jukebox musicals always honour those with considerable talent, Buddy is no different. Writer Alan Janes seeks not to tell an untold story, but merely present the life of an accomplished artist through his work.
Glen Joseph embodies Holly physically, through gesture and of course most vitally, vocally. The show focuses more on presenting the songs of Buddy and the Crickets and while a narrative of his life weaves around the numbers, the score is what really matters. This does not hinder Joseph from giving an all-out performance, he is humorous, warm and charming throughout.
There’s very little point in discussing how influential the body of work Holly produced (with help) was. Tonight’s production is awash with some of early rock’s most memorable classics. None more so than Everyday, Raining in My Heart and Peggy Sue. Everyday, in particular, rouses the hearts of many in the audience. All vocal performers are excellent, Miguel Angel and Jordan Cunningham as the Apollo theatre performers particularly impress, the choreography, timing and atmosphere in this section help close out a superior first act.
Comedy, while often expected in the Jukebox genre, is a highlight in this production. Often directors and writers rely on nostalgia but less often do they put much thought into the script or comedic prowess. Instead this evening writer Alan Janes and director Adrian Rees create a production with natural humour without tipping the balance from musical into comedic farce. It serves a purpose, and a well-drilled cast incorporate the humour into the rhythm of the score.
If possible, take a moment to direct your gaze from the glitzy stage to reveal the true testament to Buddy’s success as a Jukebox musical. The faces of the audience are adorned with grins and some are dancing in the aisles. Engaging this precisely with your audience deserves major credit.
This evening’s only real let down is the phoned-in performance from Kerry Low as Maria Elena Holly. It feels wooden, forced and is highlighted in its unnatural flow by the sharp chemistry of the remaining cast members. All of them react well with one another, particularly impressive is Thomas Mitchells, performing three different characters, all have differing attitudes and interactions with Holly and none of which feel tainted by the previous roles.
Is this production really any more than a Jukebox musical? Not particularly. If you find yourself ready to rock, Buddy will provide the beat. If you find yourself unwilling, the songs may well snatch your cynicism away from you. It does what the Jukebox does best, though, it invigorates, a hit of nostalgia drags out the memories and commands those limbs to move.
Runs until March 4 2017 | Image: