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Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story at Richmond Theatre

L-R Tom Sowinski Celia Cruwys-Finnigan, Alex Fobbester (Buddy Holly) Alex Tosh, Kerry Low, Miguel Angel
L-R Tom Sowinski Celia Cruwys-Finnigan, Alex Fobbester (Buddy Holly) Alex Tosh, Kerry Low, Miguel Angel

I’ve been working now for many, many years. At the end of time, whilst I am sure I will have had an effect on some people’s lives, would I be able to face my maker able to say that I had changed the course of entertainment forever? Probably not, but I know of a man who could and the musical show of his life is currently touring the country. The show is, of course, Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story and I caught it as it started its week at the Richmond Theatre.

The show follows the career of Buddy Holly (played by either Alex Fobbester or Glen Joseph) and starts in January 1956. Buddy and his friends Joe B. Mauldin (Joe Butcher) and Jerry Allison (Josh Haberfield) – playing as The Crickets – manage to infiltrate a local C&W radio show hosted by Hipockets Duncan (Matthew Quinn) and fill the airwaves of Lubbock Texas with Rock-and-Roll music. We progress through the short but disastrous stint signed to Decca until Buddy and the boys go down to Clovis, New Mexico and meet Producer Norman Petty (Alex Tosh) who lets Buddy try his music his way. Kept alive by the ministering of Vi Petty (Celia Cruwys-Finnigan) Buddy gets to grip with producing his sound. Through contacts in New York, Norman gets The Crickets’ work published and they become a musical sensation. As their career takes off, Buddy gets involved in a whirlwind romance with receptionist Maria Elena (Kerry Low) and goes solo, undertaking the ‘The Winter Dance Party’ of 1959, a bus tour through the Midwest. Along with fellow stars, Richie Valens (Jordan Cunningham) and The Big Bopper (Thomas Mitchells) Buddy puts up with the horrendous midwest winter weather and the appalling conditions until a fateful night where the three performers decide to fly to their next venue. A decision that changed the face of music forever.

The strangest thing about seeing Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story was the realisation of just how short his musical career had been. Barely 18 months long, yet in that time Buddy managed to transform rock-and-roll music and paved the way for the many many bands that followed him. The problem with putting a show like this together is that, on the whole, Buddy didn’t really do a lot except write wonderful music and perform it and by the end, I’m not sure I really knew that much more about Buddy the man. There were lots of questions I wanted answers to. Such as, was he really that impulsive in marrying Maria and if so, why? Was she the ‘Yoko’ of the group and what happened after Buddy died? Was his mother really so smothering? In order to fit nearly thirty songs in, the story does get a little sidelined.

However, let’s be honest, it’s the music that most people will go and see The Buddy Holly Story for. And in this instance, the production was first rate. A multiple instrument playing cast gave each song a lovely air of authenticity and when mixed with some extremely similar sounding voices, the whole show was like stepping back in time. Full credit to Alex Fobbester who played Buddy on the night I saw the show. Apart from being slightly too handsome, he was the image of the singer and there was something really endearing in seeing him in the early scenes with creases down the front of his jeans – just like momma used to do. I would like to mention as well Miguel Angel and Jordan Cunningham as the performers at the Apollo nearly stole the show. Brilliantly played by the two actors.

Adrian Rees set design is a little spartan, though colourful but it is more than made up for by the costumes – particularly in the Clear Lake Concert set which ends the show in spectacular style.

My recommendation then. If you want to know the life story of Buddy Holly, then visit Wikipedia or buy a book. If you want to appreciate the musical genius of the man and have a rocking good night out, then get yourself along to see Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story, leave your inhibitions at the door and enjoy this great feel-good production.

4 stars

Review by Terry Eastham

Seen by over 22 million people worldwide, book now for the most successful rock and roll show of all time!
Forget feel good, Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story is FEEL GREAT! Experience the drama, passion and excitement as a cast of phenomenally talented actors and musicians tell Buddy Holly’s story, from his meteoric rise to fame, to his final legendary performance at The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.

Featuring two terrific hours of the greatest songs ever written, including That’ll Be The Day, Oh Boy, Rave On, La Bamba, Chantilly Lace, Johnny B. Goode, Raining In My Heart, Everyday, Shout and many many more, this show is just Peggy Sue-perb!

Running time: 2 hours 25 minutes (including interval)

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