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The Buddy Holly Story – New Theatre, Oxford

Director: Matt Salisbury

Writer: Alan Janes

Reviewer: Bethaney Rimmer

Before The Beatles and The Stones there was Buddy Holly, a young singer/songwriter from Lubbock Texas who knew what he wanted to be and exactly what sound he wanted to make. Within a very short period of time, Buddy and his iconic thick rimmed spectacles revolutionised music for the better, and, as this musical about his life shows, he worked extraordinarily hard to achieve his legacy. When the rest of his band were too tired to make any more music after endless hours in the studio, he’d continue to make more melodies, and when record producers told him “No” to his new rock ‘n’ roll sound, he looked them squarely in the eye and did it anyway.

Buddy Holly The Musical is currently on its 25th anniversary tour, which is a testament to the long lasting popularity of his music. The storyline of the show is fairly simplistic, a standard rise to fame tale concluding with an explosive, celebratory ending that has everyone on their feet. Indeed, the last 15 minutes of the show are worth the wait. The set reflects this shift from simplicity to spectacle as most of the production is played out with a solid red brick background, which transforms into a silver, frilly sensation for the final winter ball scene.

Despite the tragic plane crash that ended Buddy’s life when he was a mere 22 years old, the production does not allow the audience to dwell too long on this heartbreaking fact, instead it promotes a feel good atmosphere where appreciation for his musical achievements is the top priority. Each song is warmly received, from ‘That’ll Be The Day’ to ‘True Love Ways’, and it added to the enjoyment to watch the rows in front sway in unison to songs they’ve been hearing for decades.

Roger Rowley is an extremely lucky find. His portrayal of the leading man is uncanny from his vocals to his dance moves, including the iconic Buddy Holly kicks, flicks, and jumps. He provides an excellent demonstration of Buddy’s unimpeachable strength of character and passion for music, and although Buddy’s star potential was doubted by many due to his slim, tall and sometimes awkward physicality, Rowley makes sure that his Buddy proved them wrong.

He is joined by an equally talented cast, all of whom also take on the responsibility of being the musicians. They undertake this task with great dexterity and creativity, especially Scott Haining on the double bass as he demonstrates a couple of particularly impressive and original acrobatic type moves with his instrument.

Alan Janes’ script is on the most part enjoyable however there are a couple of jarring moments; in particular the studio scene where Buddy and the Crickets are about to perform a number and are cut off by a blackout just as they are about to sing to indicate a jump forward in time. This happens for consecutive songs in one scene and becomes a tad frustrating as hearing the band play is the highlight of the entire show, and this scene leaves you feeling deprived of that.

While there are moments that could do with a refresh, this is one of those shows that you could watch more than once and never get bored. It is almost certainly the dedication, energy and talent of the cast that makes this production so enjoyable, and as long as this continues then Buddy Holly’s music will continue to reach fans old and new with positive results, and deservedly so.

Photo: Alison Whitlock | Runs until: Saturday 2 August

Director: Matt Salisbury Writer: Alan Janes Reviewer: Bethaney Rimmer Before The Beatles and The Stones there was Buddy Holly, a young singer/songwriter from Lubbock Texas who knew what he wanted to be and exactly what sound he wanted to make. Within a very short period of time, Buddy and his iconic thick rimmed spectacles revolutionised music for the better, and, as this musical about his life shows, he worked extraordinarily hard to achieve his legacy. When the rest of his band were too tired to make any more music after endless hours in the studio, he’d continue to make more…

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.