by Alan Janes.
Tour to 16 July 2011.
Runs 2hr 35min (including encore).
Review: Timothy Ramsden 23 February at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre.
A well-wrought earner.
Some shows tour; others become an addiction. It’s easy to see why Buddy keeps cropping up in London and touring the country a quarter-century on. The current edition of Rob Bettinson’s original production sees director Matt Salisbury pushing the energy levels, if not stretching the material for depth of character or situation.
Alan Janes’ script is bio-play as hero-worship, which is just what the widened torsos, permed hairdos and goodtime seniors want, alongside reminders of the brief career of the singer without whom the Beatles (as some of them said) might never have been (it’s easily possible to imagine some of the up-tempo rock numbers segueing into A Hard Day’s Night or Twist and Shout).
Throughout, the singer’s life is shown on a sociably jovial level – there’s a running gag about mum’s ‘phone calls demanding Buddy takes regular meals, while the rejection of a White band in a Harlem Theatre, and even Buddy’s split with original backing group The Crickets, are kept light-touch. Musically, though, the point’s made that Holly was a restlessly innovative artist.
Yet only one scene attempts to look beneath glittering surfaces and easily-resolved problems, as Buddy searches for the sound he wants with his band in a recording session. Numbers open into blackouts, lights coming up to reveal ever-more frazzled players and producer, till they’re laid out on the floor asleep.
The blackout returns at the end. Having trailed the air-accident that will kill Holly, along with Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper during their 1959 Winter Dance Party tour, the evening becomes the final concert’s culmination, its new Holly numbers showing he went out on a high. Then the blackout, mid-number.
This powerful moment’s reduced towards sentimentality by the following image of a guitar alone on stage and a voice-over report of the crash. There again, the play here’s not entirely the thing. The man and the music are what count, and both come over with freshness and energy, leaving enthusiastic Aylesbury theatregoers singing on their way out during the interstices of ‘That’ll Be The Day’ – sure sign they had found this quite a night.
Hipockets Duncan/Murray Deutch/Clearlake MC: Gary Trainor.
Buddy Holly: Glen Joseph/Roger Rowley.
Joe B Mauldin: Christopher Redmond.
Jerry Allison: Dan Graham.
Radio Engineer/Apollo Theatre DJ/Jackdaw: Alex Marshall.
Hayrider/Decca Producer/The Big Bopper: Steve Dorsett.
Norman Petty: Kyle Riley.
Vi Petty/Maria’s Aunt/Mary Lou Sokoloff/Snowbird: Katia Sartini.
Candy/Maria Elena/Snowbird: Felicity Chilver.
Apollo Theatre Performer/Shirley/Snowbird: Melissa Keyes.
Apollo Theatre Performer/Ritchie Valens: Miguel Angel.
Director: Matt Salisbury.
Designer: Adrian Rees.
Lighting: Joe Atkins.
Sound: Pete Cox for Thames Audio.
Musical Supervisor: John Banister.
Choreographer: Lizzi Gee.