Balerno’s Vivienne Smith stars in Buddy

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YOU could say the Pentland Hills were alive with the sound of music, when Balerno schoolgirl Vivienne Smith won the role of Maria in her school production of The Sound of Music.

Just 14 at the time, that role would set her on the path to becoming a musical theatre star.

Vivienne Smith as Maria Elena with Glen Joseph who plays Buddy Holly. Pic: Comp

Vivienne Smith as Maria Elena with Glen Joseph who plays Buddy Holly. Pic: Comp

The actress, now 21 (“Nearly 22,” she chips in), recalls, “Currie High School did The Sound of Music as their end-of-year play. I’d never sung before, but auditioned for Maria, and got the part. I totally fell in love with the feeling of being on stage.”

Next week, Smith returns home to make her Capital debut in Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, at The King’s, and there’s no hiding her delight.

“It’s lovely to be coming home. It’s something I have longed for and now that it is finally happening, it’s awesome. I’m so excited.”

In Buddy, which tells the tragic tale of rock and roll’s greatest performer, Smith plays Maria Elena, his wife.

Her first professional role, it has been a challenge she has enjoyed, not least because the real Maria Elena is still very much engaged with the show.

Now 78 years old, she says, “I believe this show is a testament to the enduring appeal of Buddy Holly and what he represents; a youthful energy, huge talent and creativity, combined with a determination to make a lasting impression in this world.

“It’s incredible to witness subsequent generations getting carried away in his music - proof that his spirit lives on through all of us.”

Smith admits she would love to meet the lady she brings to life on stage.

“I’ve actually been chatting with the director about the possibility of speaking with her on the phone... but I don’t know what I’d say,” she laughs.

Smith, who moved to Guildford at the age of 17 to study at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, landed the role after a year of auditioning, without success.

“After college there was just nothing. Then my agent suggested this, but said I’d have to play the violin for it. I said, ‘no’ - I hadn’t played the violin since high school. But in the end I practised like crazy, got the audition, and yeah... Bob’s your uncle.”

Buddy tells of the enduring icon’s meteoric rise to fame and his final legendary performance at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, before his tragic and untimely death at the age of 22 in a plane crash. In 18 short months the Texas-born boy revolutionised the face of music forever, with hits like That’ll Be The Day, Peggy Sue, Oh Boy and Rave On, all of which feature in the show.

Smith is first to confess that, although she has a love of rock and roll, she had to research her subject.

“Buddy Holly is just one of those people... you find you know his songs without realising that they are his. It was only when I was doing my research that I discovered how many hits he’d had.

“Actually, I didn’t know the story, and it got me really upset. It’s so touching. Dreadfully sad for Maria Elena, who is still working hard to keep his memory alive - that is really awe-inspiring.” The actress says it took a lot of thought to bring Maria Elena to life for the musical.

“Her being a Puerto Rican girl in New York in the fifties... I had to think about how naive she might have been, although she must have had some guts about her to be working in a record office at such a young age.

“That’s what I would talk to her about,” she decides, “how she felt she was treated by the men that came to the office and how she reacted to them.”

No one is more proud of Smith’s current success than her No 1 fans, mum Alice and dad Craig.

“They came to see the show when we opened and were really proud,” she says, adding that she has a lot to thank them for.

“My mum and dad are both really musical and my brother and I have always played lots of instruments.

“I started the piano and violin when I was fairly little, but I never really sang, other than in church. The first time my mum and dad ever heard me was in The Sound of Music. From then on, they were right behind me.”

During her training, Smith held down a number of day jobs, including a stint at Office Shoes, on Princes Street, selling wellies to tourists.

However, she was working in a London cocktail bar when she was cast in Buddy. It proved invaluable for perfecting Maria Elena’s Latino accent.

“There were a few Southern American bar tenders, a few Spaniards, and I watched a bit of West Side Story,” she laughs, “So hopefully there’s not a trace of Balerno left in there.”

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, King’s Theatre, Leven Street, next Monday-Saturday, 7.30pm (matinees 2.30pm), £14-£29.50, 0131-529 6000