Buddy – the Buddy Holly Story
Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton
THIS musical about the all-too-brief life and times of rock ‘n’ roll star Buddy Holly keeps coming round and always attracts enthusiastic audiences who clearly loved the man.
On opening night the customers frequently joined in the many hit songs in a show that is a little stop-go in the first act but ends with a blistering performance from the cast in what was Holly’s last concert, at the Surf Ballroom, Clear Lake, Iowa in February 1959.
It’s then that Glen Joseph, playing Buddy, really turns it on with much loved songs like Peggy Sue, Heartbeat and It Doesn’t Matter Anymore, while Thomas Mitchells (The Big Bopper) and Jordan Cunningham (Ritchie Valens) join in with Maybe Baby. Chantilly Lace and La Bamba.
Tragically, the trio died in a plane crash after heading off for another venue, but their music lives on.
There is more of a friendly school teacher than rock star in Joseph’s appearance, but that is perfect because Buddy, in those black, horn-rimmed glasses, had a bit of a geeky look about him and once, during his short career lasting less than two years, he was told ‘You’ve got less sex appeal than a telegraph pole’.
He rejected a suggestion that he should dispense with his specs , was the first performer to wear glasses and the first rock ‘n’ roller to write his own songs, and what joy they still bring. A great legacy from a musician who died too soon, aged 22.
One of the most amusing parts of the show comes when Buddy and his band, The Crickets, appear at the Apollo Theatre in New York’s Harlem district where the audience thought they were going to see a black band, but it turns into a triumph. Less enjoyable, even irritating, is the scene where they are in a recording studio and stage lights are repeatedly switched off to suggest moving on in time.
There are touching moments between Buddy and Maria Elena (Kerry Low) the girl he proposes to minutes after meeting her and who, after they marry, has a terrible premonition about the fatal air crash.
Oh Boy, it’s good.
Directed by Matt Salisbury, Buddy plays on to 04-02-17.