Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story
The Hawth Crawley
Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story | Review
The first rule of jukebox musicals, get to the songs. Whether you’re telling the story of the band (Jersey Boys, Sunny Afternoon) or hanging the catalogue on a flimsy plot (Mamma Mia!), people have paid money to hear the music they love, so don’t disappoint.
It’s a philosophy that certainly wasn’t lost on Alan Janes when he sat down to write this exuberant tribute to Buddy Holly and it’s proved massively successful; 14 years in the West End, numerous productions around the world, and now out on the road once again to celebrate the show’s 30th anniversary.
Christopher Weeks stars as Buddy Holly and the show traces the story of the young man from Lubbock, Texas who wrote some of the most enduring rock ‘n roll songs and ballads during a painfully short career before his tragic death in a plane crash aged just 22. It’s a testament to the quality of his work that we’re still celebrating it over sixty years after his death and a show dedicated to his memory can fill a theatre on a wet Monday night in January.
I’m not sure Buddy leapt about on stage quite as much as Weeks does, but he brings an infectious enthusiasm to the role as well as being a great singer and accomplished guitarist.
While it’s the musical segments that understandably bring the show alive, director Matt Salisbury manages to tell Holly’s story fully without slackening the pace.
After ruffling feathers at his hometown radio station because of his determination to do the music his way, Holly lands a recording contract with Decca Records. But his continuing dissatisfaction leads him to team up with producer Norman Petty (Harry Boyd, who performs other roles such as radio DJ and head of Decca). A number one single with That’ll Be the Day on both sides of the Atlantic follows and the rest is the stuff of musical legend.
Christopher Weeks manages to convey Holly’s single-minded vision while still keeping him likeable through an almost puppy dog enthusiasm that is equally demonstrated in his impulsive proposal to girlfriend Maria Elena (sweetly played by Hannah Price).
After the rise to fame story has been told the show goes into full dancing in the aisles mode with a full-on celebration of the music that includes performances by Joshua Barton as The Big Bopper and Ben Pryer as Ritchie Valens — two men who also met their untimely end in the same plane crash.
So celebratory and brilliantly done is this part of the show that we almost forget that we still have to get to the bit where they go off and die and this is given poignant but rather brief coverage before we’re back to what the people have come for. The show is blessed with a terrific cast, some playing multiple roles, and all coming together at the end as members of cracking band in what is a thrilling and feel-good celebration of a legendary singer and songwriter.
Reviewer: Tony Peters