“Before the Beatles, Before the Stones, there was Buddy Holly.”
Many are familiar with Buddy Holly as a musician. In the short but successful 18 months before his death, Holly pioneered rock and roll with his influential sound and his work singlehandedly paved the way for later musicians such as Elvis Costello, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles.
Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story is the Jukebox Musical depicting his life, telling the story of a man from Texas and his fight to keep hold of his unique musical creativity through his rapid rise to success over a short space of time.
Broken down into a series of “on stage” and “off stage” scenes, the show spans the year and a half rise of Buddy Holly. Through signing for Decca records, a musical shift from country to rock and roll (that the world would grow to love), late night recording sessions, the debut performance in Harlem, Holly’s whirlwind romance with his wife to be Maria Elena (played by Vivienne Smith), the split of the Crickets and the tour which was to be his last.
Buddy Holly was tragically killed in a plane crash in 1959 at the age of 22 shortly after finishing a performance at the Surf Ballroom, Clearlake, Iowa alongside JP “The Big Bopper” (Jason Blackwater) and Ritchie Valens (Will Pearce). Both JP and Ritchie were also killed in the crash as the 3 travelled onto the next tour stop.
It’s the Clearlake show where Buddy reaches its finale with a full concert performance including the hits Peggy Sue Got Married, Heartbeat, Johnny B.Goode and the encore Oh Boy (and “oh boy” was it an encore, I’ve never seen old people get to their feet so speedily).
The only part of the show where I felt it lost momentum was the compere interaction with the audience. As far as the show goes, its easy to see that this section is meant to make the audience feel as though they’re really at the concert (and to allow Roger Rowley’s knees time to heal from his array of slides and jumps) but for me part of the magic of the theatre is being lost in a place in time. Buddy pulled me back into the 50s, but as soon as the house lights came on I felt as though I’d been rudely woken mid dream and I found it difficult to get back “into the zone” again.
Roger Rowley embodies Buddy Holly right down to those infamous glasses. It can’t be easy taking on the part of one of the most famous performers of a musical genre, this isn’t Stars in their Eyes afterall. The audience members, if not younger fans of Holly’s legacy, grew up watching him on stage and the expectation to fill such shoes (or should that be glasses?) must be a daunting task, but Rowley manages to fill them well. Not only is he an accomplished guitarist and a talented musician, he imitates Buddy’s unique voice and mirrors his performances perfectly.
The Buddy Holly Story is an energic celebration of legendary music. The shows infectious “tap your foot” performances had even the oldest of Holly fans clapping along and dancing in the aisles.
If you love rock and roll, you’ll love Buddy.
Buddy is showing at the Regent Theatre until Saturday 8th March – tickets are available online or via the box office.
Love Buddy? The Regent Theatre has two more shows lined up inspired by musical legends. “Tonights the Night” a musical based on the songs of Rod Stewart and the epic “Let It Be”, the Beatles musical that’s come straight from the West End are both coming up towards the end of March. Book your tickets now!