Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story

Alan Janes
Buddy Worldwide Ltd
Wyvern Theatre, Swindon, and touring
(2011)

Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story production photo

Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story is one of the most successful musicals ever. It played in the West End for 13 years and toured for eight years throughout the world and is now back on an extensive UK tour and it's as vibrant and exhilarating as ever.

The plot traces the life of Buddy Holly and the Crickets from their astronomic rise to fame and a host of number one hits to Buddy's untimely tragic death together with that of Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper when their light aircraft crashed.

As Don McLean sang in the ballad American Pie, this was "the day the music died" But this celebration of Buddy's songs ensures that his inspirational music lives on.

The multi-levelled set is surrounded with iconic images of billboard adverts from the 1950's and cut outs of clean cut American teenagers

The KDAV radio studio in Lubbock Texas is playing its usual Sunday evening mix of country and western songs when Buddy and the Crickets take the studio by storm with their rock and roll performance of Rip It Up causing uproar and angst to the radio presenter.

And so their careers began. They signed a record contract with Decca but the constraints put on the band was too much and it acrimoniously ended with the producer insisting that Buddy was "no Elvis Pressley. You've got as much sex appeal as a telegraph pole". Little did he know what a phenomenon he was about to become.

Glen Joseph alternates with Roger Rowley as the bespectacled dedicated and fervent Buddy whose whole life oozed his passion for his music often recording throughout the night to make sure that they got everything right.

Buddy had a whirlwind romance proposing to Puerto Rican born Maria Elena (the delightful Felicity Chilver) just five hours after meeting her. The numbers, True Love Ways and Words of Love were written for her and at the request of his drummer Jerry Allison (Dan Graham) changed Cindy Lou to the renowned Peggy Sue, Allison's girlfriend.

Following a session at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem where they won over the black audience they eventually split up with Buddy going solo. His triumphant show at Clear Lake Iowa features Miguel Angel in an exuberant rendition of Ritchie Valens' La Bamba and Steve Dosett's spirited Chantilly Lace.

The show ends with a single acoustic guitar centre stage in a spotlight, a poignant moment.

There were stellar performances from a genuinely talented energetic cast who doubled up playing various instruments with gusto and the music was dynamic.

Oh Boy! what a sensational show that had the unrestrained Swindon audience clapping, singing, dancing and "raving on".

Reviewer: Robin Strapp