Writer: Alan Janes
Musical Director: Dean Elliott
Director: Matt Salisbury
Reviewer: Mark Clegg
Sixty years after his tragic and untimely death, Buddy Holly’s legacy lives on. In the space of a few short years, he created more hit records than most artists achieve in a lifetime, songs which have stuck in popular culture and the public consciousness ever since. Similarly the musical Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story has also shown staying power, with this new tour celebrating the show’s 30th anniversary and proving that great music transcends the passing of trends and time. This is a rip-roaring, crowd-pleasing, toe-tapping tribute to one of rock and roll’s pioneers and one of modern music’s greatest contributors.
As one of the first jukebox musicals, it remains one of the best. However, unlike the similarly fantastic Jersey Boys, the story of Buddy Holly lacks much in the way of drama and conflict mainly due to Holly’s ‘Mr Nice Guy’ personality and his premature death at the age of 22 in a plane crash. The show gets around the absence of a dramatic drive by simply letting the music take over and the highlights of the show are two extended on-stage sequences: one at Harlem’s Apollo Theater and the other the fateful Winter Dance Party in Clearlake, Iowa. This approach almost makes Buddy a pure tribute show with just a few scenes sprinkled throughout but it works brilliantly particularly with such a fantastic songbook (which also includes hits from the time other than Holly’s) and an incredibly talented cast.
AJ Jenks is perfectly cast as Buddy Holly and is clearly having an absolute ball in the role. His energy is only matched by his musical abilities as he works his way perfectly through Holly’s repertoire with the appropriate enthusiasm and sincerity. Of course, Holly wasn’t the only one that was lost on the day the music died, and so the show also features his fellow passengers on the ill-fated plane: The Big Bopper (Joshua Barton) and Ritchie Valens (Ben Pryer). Barton delivers Chatilly Lace with The Bopper’s trademark boisterous charm, and Pryer gyrates and struts up a storm in La Bamba. Elsewhere Miguel Angel’s amazing rendition of Reet Petite almost steals the show completely.
Regardless of musical tastes, it would be a challenge not to find feet tapping at least a few times throughout this show. Clapping along is encouraged by the cast and is impossible to resist, and the audience took no prompting in giving the cast a standing ovation and then dancing along to the encore.
Runs until 21st September | Image: