Don McLean famously referred to Buddy Holly’s tragic death in an airplane accident in 1959 as ‘the day the music died’ in his hit American Pie. But nearly 60 years later thanks to shows like Buddy, which opens at the New Alexandra Theatre this week, the iconic rock and roll star’s music is still very much alive.
The show charts the story of Holly’s meteoric rise from country life in Lubbock, Texas to international rock and roll stardom - staggeringly all achieved in the 18 months before his tragic death at just 22.
And this cracking show has everything a good Buddy Holly number had – pace, rhythm, energy and bags of natural talent.
It’s amazing just how many of Holly’s songs remain in the public consciousness - hits like That’ll Be the Day and Peggy Sue which helped to propel Holly and his band The Crickets to stardom. The last 45 minutes of the show may as well be a concert and features another tranche of iconic Holly hits like Why Do Fools Fall in Love, Hearbeat and Johnny B Goode.
Alex Fobbester delivers a memorable performance as Holly, capturing his mannerisms and hiccoughing voice quite brilliantly.
It’s difficult to think of a show that could be more exacting for a cast which has to act, sing and provide the music. And there isn’t a weak link in this line up.
Joe Butcher and Josh Haberfield support Holly well as his Crickets and Jordan Cunningham dazzles as Richie Valens, particularly in his performance of yet another iconic song – La Bamba.
Elsewhere Thomas Mitchells is brash and brilliant as The Big Bopper and Matthew Quinn impresses as Texan radio DJ Hipockets Duncan and in a rather hilarious skit as a camp club MC.
The latter is an example of some neat touches which make this production truly immersive for the audience. One minute we’re given a glimpse backstage as The Crickets nervously prepare for a concert in Harlem, the next the curtain comes down and we’re treated to the sense of anticipation that must have gripped crowds waiting to see the great star back in the 50s.
By the end Fobbester and this small but brilliant cast had the audience in the palm of their hands and they were left, quite literally, begging for more.
Buddy is a rocking and rolling tribute to an icon lost all too soon. A reminder, if one was needed, of just how influential and enduring this immensely talented young man’s music is and a poignant glimpse into what could have been.
The show runs at the New Alexandra Theatre until Saturday 1 April.
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