Buddy Holly is a household name; his short yet fruitful career was a defining moment in the beginnings of rock and roll as he challenged the norms of music. Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story is a musical depicting the life of the star, from his rise to fame with The Crickets, his speedy marriage to María Elena, his legendary final performance, and his untimely death. The Buddy Holly Story is sure to have you dancing in the aisles and singing along to all of the hits.
As with any jukebox musical its purpose is to create a story around pre-established music, whether that is depicting a new plot or the biographical life of the musicians. The Buddy Holly Story was wonderful in creating a sense of community for the audience. People were singing and clapping along to all the familiar songs and there was a real sense in solidarity with the actors performing. However, for this musical the libretto is lacking in plot and momentum and the whole production was riding on its musical numbers. What was meant to be a musical about the life of Buddy Holly turned more into a tribute concert where as many songs as possible were packed into the 2.5 hours. Although there is no doubt that this performance united its audience to create an enjoyable night toe-tapping to the hits.
The role of Buddy Holly is shared on the UK Tour between Alex Fobbester and Glen Joseph, with the latter playing at the performance I saw. Glen Joseph is a real-life Buddy Holly tribute act and that cannot be more apparent from his performance, he is simply terrific in the role. Joseph performs with the highest energy, his seamless performance and likability invites you in and exudes Holly’s verve. The Crickets, Joe B. Mauldin and Jerry Allison, are played by Joe Butcher and Josh Haberfield respectively; each provides a brilliant sense of companionship to make Buddy Holly and The Crickets come to life as friends and musicians while all playing their instruments live on stage. The group’s renditions of “Everyday” – with the added talents of Vi Petty (Celia Cruwys-Finnigan) – and “Peggy Sue” were sure standouts for act one as the band was unified with their creative sound, with “Oh Boy” and “Rave On” being smash hits. Other appearances and performances are made by Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper.
Matt Salisbury directs the production having been with it from the start 25 years ago as company manager. His direction is plain sailing in a show with little plot and many musical numbers as each is staged in either a recording studio or a concert style.
In retrospect, the narrative to this musical barely touches on the life of Buddy Holly and appears superfluous to what seems to be a tribute concert rather than a musical. Nevertheless the performances in this show are outstanding and are sure to have you dancing in the aisles.