The Buddy Holly lyric “Rave on it’s a crazy feeling and I know it’s got me reelin” best sums up the electrifying performance of last night’s sensational musical BUDDY and also the ecstatic applause an appreciative audience lavished on main star Glen Joseph!

Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper may have died in a plane crash on Feb 3rd 1959 but their musical legacy lives on forever. What better way to celebrate this legacy than with a smash musical? Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story takes us back to Charles Hardin Holley’s humble beginnings in his native Lubbock, Texas, where he annoys a few people at the local Grand Bowl when his country & western tunes suddenly merge into feverish rock ‘n’ roll. Yep, that boy sure was born to ‘Rip it Up’! From the outset, Buddy (Glen Joseph) and his band The Crickets made it clear that rock ‘n’ roll is the name of the new game, a bold statement not taken lightly by the conservative and religious white majority including local radio DJ’s and what have you. Hold on, doesn’t that ‘troublesome’ and outspoken country-rock trio Dixie Chicks also hail from Texas? No doubt there’s rebellious spirit to be found in Texas! Banned from the Grand Bowl, Buddy and his Crickets soldier on unfazed. Next scene takes place in The Diner and trouble’s a brewing again though things are on the up when it transpires that a recording contract with Decca is on the cards. Whaddya know, Buddy refuses to play the game for all he wants to play is… rock ‘n’ roll and Decca won’t let him do it his way. It’s just as well that he receives some mighty useful advice to contact Norman Petty’s (Alex Tosh) Norvajak Studios down in New Mexico and finally we’re talking. Or rather, singing!

Witness the birth of future hits such as ‘That’ll be the day’, ‘Peggy Sue’ (initially called Cindy-Lou) and more – all with a little help from Petty’s wife Vi (Celia Cruwys-Finnigan) on piano. It’s a riot to watch and gives a fair impression as to what went down during producing those legendary demos. Particularly impressive is the convincing Texas-drawl of the musicians whenever they speak! Finally on the way to their much-deserved breakthrough, Buddy and his Crickets are booked to play the legendary Apollo Theatre in Harlem of all places! Some very funny scenes coming up here, but not before two seasoned Apollo performers (Miguel Angel and Tom Sowinski) treat the audience to a super-dynamic rendition of ‘Shout’ complete with Blues Brothers-style acrobatics to match! The moment the two Apollo regulars realize that Buddy and his band are white and Buddy and the Crickets realize that their audience is black is simply hysterical! No worries, our Buddy soon wows the invisible crowd with more hits such as ‘Not Fade Away’, ‘Words of Love’, and ‘Oh Boy’.

The second part kicks off in the music publisher’s office in New York where Buddy encounters future wife Maria Elena (Kerry Low) and it’s love at first sight. Well, almost… Five hours later Buddy proposes to her with ‘Think it Over’ and ‘’It’s so Easy to fall in Love’. Then it’s back to the Norvajak Studios where things blow up when Vi teases Elena about her Puerto Rican accent and Buddy is faced with the prospect of becoming a major star but without the Crickets… Reluctantly accepting the new deal, Elena, now pregnant, packs his suitcase for him and the couple return to their New York apartment where she reveals she has nightmares about balls of fire in the sky and urges him not to go on the so-called Winter Dance Party Tour across the frozen Midwest. But he does go as it’s only for two weeks… and the stage is set for a blazing finale that also introduces us to Thomas Mitchell’s inspired rendition of the Big Bopper’s ‘Chantilly Lace’ and of course Ritchie Valens (Jordan Cunningham) smash ‘La Bamba’ though it must be said that the performance of the real Ritchie Valens’ was most likely nowhere as steamy as Cunnigham’s ‘hot latino lover’ antics. Well, the ladies in the audience didn’t complain… More Buddy hits followed with ‘Maybe Baby’, ‘Raining in my Heart’, ‘It doesn’t matter anymore’ before the stage lights went out and a voiceover announced that Holly, Valens and the Big Bopper had perished in a plane crash that very night. A smattering rendition of ‘Johnny B Goode’ was an encore treat and had the audience dancing in the aisles.

Absolutely fantastic stuff and what a joy to see the older generation flocked together to celebrate one of their former teen idols! The cast are all magnificent though of course this was Glen Joseph’s show, who btw is an accomplished musician in his own right (www.GlenJoseph.co.uk)
Applause also to the choreography and the inspired set design which proved simplistically effective.

BUDDY runs until Saturday March 4th (www.edtheatres.com)

Buy Buddy tickets here.

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