Review: Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story

RAVE ON: Thomas Mitchells, Alex Fobbester and Jordan Cunningham as The Big Bopper, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens

RAVE ON: Thomas Mitchells, Alex Fobbester and Jordan Cunningham as The Big Bopper, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens

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OH boy! Tragedy might lie at the heart of Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story but it remains one of the greatest feel-good stage shows ever.

Festival Theatre, Nicolson Street

* * * * *

No surprise then that Alan Janes’ musical has been touring regularly since 1991. This latest production is up there with the best of them.

Told on Adrian Rees’ simple yet sumptuous pastel set, beautifully lit by Darren Coopland, who adds a whole new dimension to the aesthetics, the story of Buddy Holly is a sad one.

The first rock ‘n’ roll star to write his own songs and be involved in their production, he was also first the first performer to wear glasses. Buddy Holly did things his way.

His life was cut short at the height of his career when, on 3 February 1959, he was killed in a plane crash, along with fellow rock’n’roll stars Ritchie Valens and JP Richardson aka The Big Bopper.

Married, with a child on the way at the time, he was only 22. His legacy lives on through his songs, however, which have since influenced generations of musicians.

Songs like That’ll Be The Day, Everyday, Peggy Sue and Rave On, all of which are present in The Buddy Holly Story.

At the top of the musical, radio station KDAV’s Sunday Party introduces the 19-year-old Buddy Holly, played by Alex Fobbester as a charismatic, baby-faced rebel, with a stubborn streak.

He’s geeky and likeable and has Buddy’s signature ‘hiccup’ perfected.

However, the beauty of this production is that it is an ensemble piece. Fobbester might be the front-man but Joe Butcher and Josh Haberfield as Joe and Jerry (The Crickets) are with him every step of the way.

A strong double act, they share some nice comic moments.

Amid the laughter there’s a serious message too - Buddy Holly and The Crickets were the first white act to play Harlem’s Apollo Theatre, defying the taboos of the time.

As the tale unfolds, the narrative driven through an effective use of the medium of the day, radio, director Matt Salisbury harnesses the power of the music at his disposal to connect those on stage and off stage with a deft line in audience participation.

As the company power towards a devastatingly poignant vignette that pays silent tribute to the fateful night Holly died, it’s all about the music

Jordan Cunningham’s Ritchie Valens’ proves a gyrating firecracker during La Bamba and Thomas Mitchells’ Big Bopper is a pouting, preening man-mountain of explosive energy on Chantilly Lace.

The impeccable choreography of Miguel Angel is well drilled and effortlessly captures the styles of the period.

“Rock and roll is a communicable disease...” one character declares during the show, judging by the vintage teenagers jiving in the aisles by the time Oh Boy! came around to bring the curtain down, nothing has changed.

For a night of rock’n’roll heaven, Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story can’t be beat.

Run ends Saturday