There can be few people who haven’t heard of Buddy Holly, this musical brings the magic to the stage for a new audience.
Buddy Holly started out releasing his first song at the age of twenty. In less than two years he was taken from the world. We follow as he tries to break into the music business making the music he wants to make. Most scenes contain multiple songs, either in a studio or as a concert. The story is moved along by a narration from various characters played by one actor. A large part of act 2 is focused on the final concert of the Winter Party tour, featuring well known songs of the era.
This anniversary tour celebrates 30 years of this musical. It was one of the first jukebox style shows and has become the most successful rock and roll musical in the world.
The cast is small for a musical but extremely hard working, not only are they the actors but they also play all of the music. Some of the cast play multiple parts, Harry Boyd plays 6 characters narrating the story, changing effortlessly from one to another in full view of the audience. Buddy is backed perfectly by the Crickets (Joe Butcher, Josh Haberfield and Christopher Weeks) they perfectly portray the group of young men having fun but on a mission. The double bass antics are something to look out for. There are cameo appearances from The Big Bopper (Joshua Barton) and Ritchie Valens (Ben Pryer) they aren’t on stage long, but they make an impact with the distinctive styles of those musicians. Of course, the main character is Buddy Holly, at this performance the role was played by AJ Jenks. He looked every inch the non-stereotypical rock star, his performance wasn’t an impersonation but a loving homage to Buddy. The cast worked hard to enthuse the audience with their energy and joy, not an easy task on a Tuesday night, but they were rewarded eventually with people up and dancing in their seats.
While there aren’t many scenes, small changes take us from a radio studio to a recording studio in the blink of an eye. Drop some full stage length curtains in and you create a theatre. Designed by Adrian Rees, it may look simple but it is effective and ingenious. The lighting (Darren Coopland) brings it all to life, no more so than in the touching moments symbolising the death of all those on the plane.
This show is not a detailed look at Buddy’s life, it is a celebration of his music and determination. Fans of his music will love the chance to relive favourite songs. Those who think they don’t really know the music will find they recognise the songs and will tap their feet. Despite the tragic story the show ends on a high with the audience on its feet dancing and smiling and generally having a great time. Shows aren’t popular for 30 years without reason, don’t miss your chance to see this one.
Reviewer: Annette Nuttall
Reviewed: 3rd March 2020
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★