The Buddy Holly Story - The rise and tragic demise of one of rock and rolls founders brought to life
I always like to be as honest as possible with you our readers, so I am not going to tell lies and say I knew very much about Buddy Holly before going to this show. In fact, I kept getting tongue-tied when talking to people about going to review and kept calling him Buddy Holiday confusing him with the equally talented Billie Holiday….don’t laugh I know they are totally different but both equally iconic lol!
Anyway enough about my lack of knowledge on the subject matter, this show is a must-see for theatre / musical lovers and those wanting to get into the good books with their parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents. The age range of the audience spanned decades and toward the end, there were people dancing in the aisles! I actually was surprised at how many songs I actually knew subconsciously or otherwise, even the theme for legendary 90’s TV Heartbeat got a spin! #ClaudeGreengrass
Buddy has enjoyed phenomenal success, having played a record-breaking 4668 performances over 580 weeks on tour in the UK and Ireland and 5822 performances in London’s West End. Celebrating over 30 years, Buddy is one of a small number of iconic musicals including Les Misérables, Phantom of the Opera, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Miss Saigon, Evita and Cats to reach a spectacular three decades on stage.
The first act details Buddy (Christopher Weeks) and his band the crickets rise to popularity with a few bumps along the way. From being forced to make country-sounding music at a local country music radio station when all they want to do is rock and roll, to signing their big break contract with Norman Petty (Thomas Mitchells)who goes on to produce the majority of Hollys' music. It takes you through Hollys' strive for perfection, working through the night with regular coffees and food from Vi Normans' wife(Stephanie Cremona) who then becomes part of the recording sessions for her talents on the keys. You get an insight into his creative processes and how he created many of his hit songs including That’ll Be The Day, Peggy Sue, Oh Boy, Everyday and many more. At the end of Act One, you relive his famous performance at Apollo Theatre in Harlem, New York and being the first white act to play there. It was at this point in my opinion that Samuelle Durojaiya stole the scene/act as an Apollo performer and ring leader with her comic timing and sassiness.
Act 2 details how he met his wife and the mother of his child and their whirlwind relationship to marriage to his iconic but unfortunate final gig at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake. You get to meet and hear the other two artists and friends of Buddys that unfortunately died with him on that final flight, The Big Bopper played superbly by Christopher Chandler and Ritchie Valens (Miguel Angel) of la Bamba fame The second act feels more like you have been personally invited to the Surf Ballroom for the actual last gig of Holly. This is when you really get to see the musical talents of the entire cast, from singing, dancing and playing the instruments live on stage rather than in the orchestra pit. Special mention for Act Two must go to the double base gymnastics and the comic audience participation by Thomas Mitchells who plays the MC of the final fateful night like he has just stepped out of the 50’s.
AJ JENKS was born to play the of Buddy and commands the stage with a convincing slickness that draws the audience into the scenes and makes them feel like they are at Hollys actual gigs.
Whether you are a fan of Buddy Holly or not, rock & roll wouldn’t exist without Buddy Holly. This high-energy show will have you tapping your feet and clapping along to many of Buddy’s famous tracks.
The Buddy Holly Story runs at The Grand Opera House Belfast to Saturday 19th September, can be purchase tickets via goh.co.uk