Writer: Alan James
Director: Matt Salisbury
Reviewer: Ruth Lovett
On the 55th anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly, his story rolls back in to town and is welcomed with just as much fervour as ever.
Taking place over a three year period from January 1956 until that fateful February night in 1959, we witness Holly’s (Roger Rowley) rapid rise from a stifled country star from Lubbock Texas to the progressive leader of rock n roll. Despite getting a country recording contract early in his career, Holly knew that it wasn’t for him. Along with the other two members of the group, the Crickets (Jerry: Adam Flynn and Joe: Scott Haining), Holly takes a chance at a recording studio and the rest, as they say is history.
Like so many others, The Buddy Holly Story is essentially a juke-box musical (One of the very first in fact!) Holly’s story is not really that remarkable in many respects. It doesn’t have the grit and mob undertone of the Jersey Boys or the gaucheness of Viva Forever but what it does have is fantastic songs. Holly wanted to evolve music, he saw it as a living thing that could be challenged, changed and improved. His work ethic saw him have a string of hits in less than two years and placed him at the front of a music revolution.
The first act moves along at a pace as Rowley takes Holly from a young geeky boy to a confident singer/songwriter with flair. He plays the rôle with ease and has a great voice for the part, doing Holly’s songs justice. The second half is drawn out with the first part engaging with the audience goes on just a touch too long. The crowning moment is the winter dance party 1959 scene in which Rowley really encapsulates Holly’s ground breaking style and even mimics his moves with convincing ease. Jason Blackwater’s Big Bopper is fantastic and his rendition of ‘Chantilly Lace’ really gets the audience going. Will Pearce excels as the cheeky hip trusting Ritchie Valens, both of whom were killed in the plane clash that also killed Holly the very next day. The show tackles the sudden death of Holly well and it was nice to see a nod to the anniversary of his death given before the rousing encore.
The enthusiasm of the cast is infectious and is what lifts the very average book to something more interesting and fitting to match the songs. The Buddy Holly Story is a stark reminder of what a loss to music Holly was and how much more might have come if he had lived beyond his tender 22 years. His backstory is of little significance really but the music will always be special. This is rousing musical that will not fail to raise a smile and boost your spirits. It is not going to change your life but then, does all theatre need to?
Runs until 8 February 2014