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Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story – Empire Theatre, Liverpool

Musical Director: John Banister

Writer and Producer: Alan James

Director: Matt Salisbury

Reviewer: Mel Duncan

The story of Buddy Holly’s rise to fame, through hard work, determination and good luck is a fascinating one. The story of an international music career spanning a mere three years: a story of Romeo and Juliet proportions when one considers the legacy left in such a short space of time.

Buddy is celebrating its 25th year with an anniversary tour, and is doing so with a sense of reverence to the original vision, but allowing for the current cast to shine and show streaks of individuality. Matt Salisbury and John Banister have seamlessly dovetailed as director and musical director to create a piece of theatre that moves cleverly and expertly from the prosaic to the lyrical in a heartbeat.

On entering the theatre, the audience are transported back to the 1950’s: silky voices and gently crooned melodies fill the ears, interrupted only by delicate three-part close harmony jingles. The show runs almost as a gig, the performances are played straight to the audience with colourful vignettes to connect them. The obvious cameradery between the musicians is evident; the enjoyment they radiate is enough to win over even the most stoic audience member, though more careful sound levelling would have allowed all of the complex parts to be heard fully. The pairing of Adam Flynn and Scott Haining on rhythm section, in particular is an absolute triumph. The rest of the characters are larger than life and are portrayed wonderfully by the multi-rôle company.

The decision to cast a seasoned Buddy Holly tribute performer in the lead rôle was very astute: Glen Joseph brought a magic and energy to the part stemming from his long term study of Holly, something which would have been impossible for an actor new to the rôle. Flawless vocals and guitar playing accompanied the impeccable acting. Joseph’s commitment to the part, and natural dominance on stage made for very enjoyable viewing but his generous nature as a performer also allowed the supporting characters opportunities to flourish. As Shirley and one of the Apollo performers, Lydia Fraser’s vocals were sublime; it would have been wonderful to hear more of her.

Although every song, from the opening “Rose Of Texas” to a stunning rendition of “Johnny B Goode”, showed a mastery of arrangement and were performed with audience enjoyment very much at the forefront, the song which captured the audience’s heart was the classic “True Love Ways”, performed by Joseph as a simple acoustic solo. This was a welcome diversion from the high energy full company numbers, and his performance was emotive and captivating. The single guitar and microphone stand in front of the curtain is a very fitting end to the story, though could have been left a moment longer for full impact.

Runs until Saturday 15th March, then touring

Image © 2013 Buddy Worldwide Limited

Musical Director: John Banister Writer and Producer: Alan James Director: Matt Salisbury Reviewer: Mel Duncan The story of Buddy Holly's rise to fame, through hard work, determination and good luck is a fascinating one. The story of an international music career spanning a mere three years: a story of Romeo and Juliet proportions when one considers the legacy left in such a short space of time. Buddy is celebrating its 25th year with an anniversary tour, and is doing so with a sense of reverence to the original vision, but allowing for the current cast to shine and show streaks…

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