BUDDY’S audience are just as enthusiastic about the show as they were last time this peppy little musical breezed confidently through town in 2011.
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Giving the production a rapturous standing ovation as the final curtain fell, it was clear that ticket buyers are still bowled over by the ensemble’s energetic rock n roll tribute to the three music legends who died in a devastating plane crash on February 3, 1959.
Indeed, the final 30 minutes of the show are the performers’ finest, the cast diving gleefully into the exuberant spirit of the era that first gave us teenagers, poodle skirts and the quiff.
Working their way through early rock n roll classics like Shout, La Bamba and Chantilly Lace, the show is a veritable treasure chest of live renditions of songs seldom heard on the radio any more.
The first 90 minutes, however, belong to the show’s eponymous star Buddy Holly. Charting his stratospheric rise from uncompromising young Texan upstart to chart-topping legend, the production bathes in adoration for the singer.
Holly’s travel companions, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens, are mere side notes in the story, even if the music suggests otherwise.
Playing Buddy, Glen Joseph skillfully captures the essence of his character and performance style, allowing the audience to really feel a part of the story. Starring opposite as wife Maria Elena, Balerno’s Vivienne Smith competently holds the stage as an actress, singer and musician.
Yet three years of touring, has created a slackness in the production that could do with tightening up. Stage cues are looser, accents need to be coached, the cast seem almost hung over with performance fatigue and the first 20 minutes plods a little. The extreme youth of the people involved is also underplayed. Holly was only 22 when he died, while Valens was a few months short of his 18th birthday.
A fresh perspective and a bit of a shake-up would do the company the world of good and help them regain their former pizazz.
That said, Buddy’s still beguiling, the live music is performed by the cast themselves and they convey an infectious cheer that warms the cockles nicely.
• Run ends Saturday