Writer: Alan Janes
Musical Supervisor : John Banister
Director: Matt Salisbury
Reviewer: Janet Jepson
The Buddy Holly Story has been entertaining audiences around the world for 25 years, longer than its star actually lived, because as any fan knows, Buddy was tragically killed at the age of 22. This young man’s incredible rise to fame from his early life in Texas took just 18 months, and in that time he revolutionised the modern music scene, influencing stellar icons such as The Beatles and Bruce Springsteen. Don McLean touchingly referred to Buddy’s tragic early death as “the day the music died” in his hit song ‘American Pie’.
This performance of the show at The Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield, had a lot to live up to then – and it does not disappoint! The energy of the talented young performers is contagious, the cast of only 13 covering all the rôles from stage performers to record producers and radio DJs. Glen Joseph makes a very convincing Buddy, complete with the trembling leg moves, slightly messed-up wavy black hair, and of course the trademark heavy-rimmed specs; when asked by record producer Norman Petty to remove them his retort is firmly “Buddy Holly wears glasses”. His outfits morph from his 1950s jeans with their immaculate crease – presumably the work of his mother, who provides the comedy moments throughout the show by constantly phoning to ask “have you eaten?” to his grown-up dress suit worn while performing on tour, when his music has gotten serious. Adam Flynn and Will Pearce as The Crickets are perfect imitations of Joe Maudlin and Jerry Allison, young lads enjoying their music and chasing the girls. As Buddy’s single-minded determination to make his own kind of rock and roll music progresses, and with the support of his new wife Maria Elena played excellently by Vivienne Smith, he leaves the boys behind.
When Buddy sets out on his 1959 winter tour, the newly-pregnant Maria Elena (why do we never hear of any Buddy offspring?!) has a bad feeling about his going, but he calms her fears by saying poignantly “it’s only a couple of weeks” and singing his new song dedicated to her, ‘True Love Ways’. The rest is pop history. Although badly-organised, the tour did amazingly well, but was heart-breakingly cut short when the plane carrying Buddy, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper came down in bad weather between dates in Iowa and Minnesota.
The show had the audience dancing in the aisles – well standing by their seats anyway – to great Buddy classics like ‘Peggy Sue’, ‘That’ll be the Day’, ‘Oh Boy’ and ‘Rave On’. The well-constructed set perfectly epitomised the 1950s music scene, and for a boy who was told by record producers “Elvis Presley you ain’t” and “you can’t sing and you can’t play” he was pretty bloody good! The whole cast could sing and play brilliantly well, and it was uplifting to experience live music on stage. If there was one fault in this production it was the sound quality – it was well-nigh impossible to catch some of the spoken words (the American accents did not help), and many of the song lyrics were lost in the distorted volume. Nevertheless, everyone came out the doors singing!
Runs until: Sat 14 June 2014