The so-called “Jukebox musicals” that have appeared over the past twenty years or so carry a mixed reputation. While some have gone on to international acclaim, garnered top awards and are now listed in those ‘Greatest Musicals of All Time’ polls (Mamma Mia, the prime example), others have come and gone almost without mention.
As the majority of the failed ones tended to be the more biographical shows and not a fictional story linking popular songs, I was intrigued at what made Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story stand out from the rest. For, in essence here is a story of a man whose time in the spotlight lasted only a matter of a few months. Surely, not enough to fill an entire evening properly! But I was wrong. The story of Buddy Holly’s sudden rise to fame was cut short tragically after that fatal plane crash which killed Buddy, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens during their combined winter tour. It is in the subtle treatment of retelling the tragedy, set against the celebration of great music that sets this show apart from the rest. There was a buzz in the audience from before the curtain rose in anticipation of what was to come, and with every hit song the atmosphere in the auditorium intensified. As the second half moved further into a re-enactment of the final concert on the tour before the crash, the audience were built up more and more, clapping, singing along and dancing in their seats. We all knew that the tragedy was coming, but I couldn’t see how it would be achieved appropriately in this setting. Then with a simple change of lighting, the 1500 strong crowd were hushed in a moment of quiet memorial as the news of the plane crash was broadcast, before being whipped into a final rock’n’roll frenzy again. Poignant and instantly moving this was where the production ticked the box for this anti-jukebox reviewer!
Glen Joseph in the title role gave a masterclass of a performance – singing, playing guitar and dancing practically non-stop and engaging the audience brilliantly. He is well-supported by the whole company of talented actor-musicians, not only playing an array of other characters between them but making up the orchestra too.
With a simple set and great costuming the show transports you back to the heyday of early Rock ‘n’ Roll. Toe-tapping, zesty and packed full of hit songs, “Oh Boy” this show is fabulous and the perfect tonic for the grey weather and dismal news headlines that might be compounding any January blues at present! It runs “Every Day” until Saturday 4 February.
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