Writer/Producer: Alan James
Director: Matt Salisbury
Reviewer: Fraser MacDonald
Buddy Holly is undoubtedly one of the musical greats, inspiring the likes of The Beatles to create what we know today as rock and roll. Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, now in its 25th year, follows how Holly became one of the most successful recording artists of the 50’s be-fore his tragic death in February 1959.
As writer, Alan James had a mammoth task on his hands: to seamlessly weave the story of Holly’s life in with the unmistakable music he made. Unfortunately, the script simply does not deliver. Whereas other ‘jukebox musicals’ such as Dreamboats and Petticoats are light hearted, poking fun at themselves for shameless leads into songs, Buddy is a factual biography that documents the recording of Holly’s songs, some scraps of his personal life and his final performance. It is much more clinical than many would expect; a distinct lack of humour and most surprisingly, the hits people come expecting to hear are not always performed in their entirety.Rather, at the recording studio scene, the audience is teased with a snippet of a song before it is snatched away for another meaningless piece of dialogue.There are a number of things an audience cannot forgive about this show, which doesn’t end with dangling the worm of a good tune then cutting it short.
What is glaringly disappointing is the uninspired set, comprising of little more than brick wall flats. Despite clever trickery with neon signs, there is no real effort to make set changes until the end of Act 2, resulting in the first three quarters of the show merging into one brick wall backdrop blur. It was clear from overheard interval conversation that Act 1 was considered by most to be a slow burner: a few good songs; little humour; a weak script to work with and arguably the most depressing set of a touring musical, the audience simply aren’t gripped from the beginning. Of course, it would be unfair to judge a musical like this solely on its narrative, something it does not entirely rely on.
Unlike other ‘jukebox musicals’, Buddy lives off the success of the artist whose name the show bears. By the time the curtain hits the floor at the end, despite the gripes with set, production and script, it cannot be denied that when Buddy showcases the definitive sound that is Buddy Holly, the audience cannot get enough. If anything, the message to be taken from this show is that the music will stand the test of time, even if the show does not.
Buddy is ably performed by Glen Joseph, his guitar sounding lick for lick identical to Holly’s. Particular highlights include a touching rendition of Words of Love and a floor shaking, storming encore of Oh Boy! to close the show. Extra credit must go to bassist Joe B Mauldin, played by Scott Haining, who oozed energy and gave many scenes a little something extra.
A fair supporting cast overall, though accents are a little rugged around the edges. In short; Buddy doesn’t not have the razzmatazz or universal appeal that other touring shows can boast, but it provides nostalgia no end for the audience it is aimed at and is overall, an entertaining piece. Like every show it has its problems, but it is almost guaranteed you’ll be dancing out of your seat by the end of the night.
Reviewed 10th February 2014 then touring.
Image © 2013 Buddy Worldwide Limited