Writer: Alan Janes
Director: Matt Salisbury
Reviewer: Ann Bawtree
Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story is the musical biography of a key figure in 20th Century popular music. Buddy Holly’s career, tragically short as it was, took the musical world from the cataclysmic arrivals of Bill Haley and Elvis Presley to the universal acceptance of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
Born in Texas during the Depression years, he was steeped in the country and church music of his homeland. The play charts his career from the singing and playing of the well-loved songs of the time, through his struggle to get his original work recognised and appreciated. From a present-day stand point, it is hard to believe he did not achieve overnight success.
Lovers of Holly’s music will not be disappointed in this show as the action is punctuated at every turn with his music. Wonderfully re-created by Alex Fobbester in the title role, he is joined by a team of highly talented singers, dancers and instrumentalists. The audience is taken along the rough road he travelled before he was able to perform, as he put it, his own music in his own way.
There are frequent episodes of slick comedy and also of romance. The scenes between Buddy and his young wife, Marie Elena, are very touching and avoid sentimentality, although one takes place under a rather unrealistically starry New York sky, given the amount of light pollution in Manhattan. However, a little artistic licence must be forgiven in this enjoyable family show. The settings and the costumes are redolent of the times, the boys sharply dressed and the girls in either those swishy skirts or gamin pedal pushers, never a high heel in sight but hairstyles resembling a centurion’s helmet.
There are scenes from the various venues through which Buddy’s career passed, each with varying degrees of success for him and not infrequently alongside some fairly dreadful supporting acts. Purposely worst is the singing of the American National Anthem by a flashy blonde “Miss Winter” in a hideous “Uncle Sam” mini-skirt. Enough to cause annoyance, if not an international incident, to an Anglo-American audience.
Inevitably, the evening concludes with the dreadful news of the air crash that ended what would surely have been a most productive life. Or rather, perhaps it should have concluded there but there is a reprise, with the ghostly appearance of the group, who play and sing as never before, to the joy of many but rather spoiling the dramatic effect.
Runs until 1 July and on tour | Image: Contributed