Everybody knows the tragic story of Buddy Holly: one fateful night, February 3rd 1959, Holly along with the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens perished in a plane crash. With that in mind, you may be expecting a melancholic affair from Buddy –The Buddy Holly Story and that couldn’t be further from the truth in what is truly an uplifting and entertaining piece of musical theatre.
The show takes a look at how Holly (Alex Fobbester) and his band The Crickets, started playing country-and-western music: when really their passion lay in ‘rock-n-roll’, and the struggles of initially getting anyone to take him seriously as a ‘skinny white-boy with thick rimmed glasses.’
What follows is a series of set pieces as the band hit the recording studio and put down tracks such as That’ll Be the Day and Peggy Sue, followed by a history making performance at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem as Buddy Holly and the Crickets became the first white band to play the theatre.
Following the interval, the production takes a familiar turn as Holly finds love, gets married, and parts company with his band and manager, this seems standard fair for these types of theatre biographies which culminates with Holly’s final gig in Clear Lake, Iowa.
This is a fantastic production which provides an interesting and fun look at Holly’s career, as well as a snap shot of life at the time. Fobbester is on great form as Holly, playing him as a likeable but determined singer. His performance anchors the production and more than does justice to Holly’s legacy with sublime renditions of Rave on and Oh Boy. Fobbester is supported by a relatively small but hard working cast, who are a joy to watch: they are clearly having a ball and this shines through in their performance. Special praise for Thomas Mitchells as the Big Bopper and Matthew Quinn as the Clear Lake compere – who put in great comedic performances that very nearly steal the show.
I must admit I’m a sucker for the old 50’s radio adverts and the production is littered with these which are comedy gold and a nice touch to a bygone era. The production offers nothing new in terms of storytelling: it’s a tried-and-tested music biography that countless other productions are doing, the difference here is that because of the tragic nature of Holly’s death, you can’t help but hope for a different outcome which you know you’ll never get.
Rave on took on a different meaning in Manchester and the UK following the Happy Mondays’ recording of a different song with the same title. Well Buddy –The Buddy Holly Story is claiming it back and judging by the audience members up dancing in the aisles they’re doing a great job!
Buddy –The Buddy Holly Story is on at The Palace Theatre, Manchester till June 3rd find tickets here http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/buddy-the-buddy-holly-story/palace-theatre-manchester/