Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story is a classic rock and roll musical. Telling the story of Buddy Holly’s rise to stardom and notoriety with his country-turned-rock-and-roll band The Crickets, this production is a vibrant telling of one man’s determination to play the music he wants to play and wearing the glasses he wants to wear.
Chances are you’ve heard of Buddy Holly, and you’ll know the ending to his tragic tale. The production mainly focuses on a whirlwind few years of success and fame—from arguing with a country music label to getting engaged within just five hours of meeting his future wife, Maria Elena. It contains some interesting insight and Buddy’s songs are cleverly mixed up with other lovely songs of the era.
Glen Joseph as Buddy Holly captures the superstar’s essence wonderfully. He doesn’t have much of a stage presence, unfortunately, but I’m not sure whether this role really requires it. He portrays Buddy Holly as a bolchy, rather bad-tempered youth with a strong determination to stand by his principles. Yet, somehow, Joseph manages to make the character likeable and really gets the audience on side.
Jordan Cunningham deserves a mention as he plays both the Apollo Performer and Ritchie Valens (understudying for Miguel Angel). He improvises well and, again, interacts with the audience. I also particularly liked Thomas Mitchells’ performance as The Big Bopper—he’s not a total tribute act but goodness he could be! His voice is almost as powerful as his presence on stage, and I find myself watching him rather than Buddy Holly whenever he’s on stage.
The production itself is very well put together, though it does seem a little tired. The ending is also a little bizarre, though there’ll be no spoilers here. All I’ll say is the ending jars with me slightly… and the final concert-style set of songs drags to the point where I’m checking my watch like a timer.
In fairness, I’ve seen more responsive audiences, and I think this did knock the cast slightly. They still manage to create a rocking atmosphere and I’m sure this is a show most would enjoy. I certainly did.
Catch the show until 15th July at the Bradford Alhambra.