Wednesday, 23 October 2019

THEATRE REVIEW: Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story - The Grand Theatre, Blackpool.

This tour marks the 30th anniversary of the Buddy Holly Story. It chronicles the meteoric rise and all too brief career of the rock and roll legend Buddy Holly and his band The Crickets.

The play kicks off in a local radio station in Lubbock, Texas with a band playing, the place where it all began for Buddy Holly. Hi-pockets Duncan, played by Harry Boyd (he is also playing Norman Petty) is playing music for the listeners of his show and then starts narrating how it all began for Buddy. He shows great versatility as he switches between the different roles of narrator, DJ and record producer. We meet Buddy played by AJ Jenks, and The Crickets, Joe B Mauldin (Joe Butcher), Jerry Allison (Josh Haberfield) and Jack Daw (Jordan Alexander), who are playing in Nashville, but not the way they want to, or the music style they really like and they eventually get dropped from their music label. They decide to go to New Mexico to record with innovative producer Norman Petty who recognises the talent they have and they spend all night recording their hits, even enlisting the help of Petty’s wife ‘Vi’ (Rhiannon Hopkins) on piano. We then see them appear at the Apollo in Harlem where they have been booked mistakenly as a black band. They make history as the first white band to perform there. This scene is amusing as the other artistes can’t wait to see the audience’s reaction to this white band. Cartier Fraser (Chantel Williams) and Marlena Madison (Sasha Latoya) play two of the Apollo artistes and give superb, energetic performances as does Tyrone Jones (Miguel Angel) who also stunned me with his drop down into the splits – wow.

In the next act we see Buddy meet his future wife Maria Elena Santiago (Hannah Price) who is working on the reception at his music publishers. Its love at first sight and Buddy tells Maria that she is the girl he is going to marry and after only a few hours of knowing each other Buddy proposes to her. The scene is quite amusing as we see Buddy break the news of his engagement to his mother over the phone. For reasons not really known we see Buddy split from The Crickets as he pursues a solo career and he makes his life with Maria in New York. Buddy at this point is working and writing constantly, he has many ideas for projects he wants to pursue and songs he has written. In one of the scenes we see him tenderly perform ‘True Love Ways’ to Maria as one night she wakes from a bad dream, you could almost say premonition as she asks Buddy not to go on tour.

However Buddy is booked to go on The Winter Dance Party tour of 1959 with ‘Big Bopper’J.P. Richardson (Joshua Barton) and Ritchie Valens ( Ben Pryer). Conditions on their tour bus are poor and weather conditions are appalling with freezing temperatures and the performers are all beginning to feel the strain. A plane is booked to take Buddy and some other members of the tour ahead to the next stop to get things organised. We see Big Bopper manage to wangle a place on the plane and then Ritchie Valance toss a coin for a place to join these guys also on the plane. After a fantastic evening of entertaining the audience the artistes leave to board the plane. The stage goes quiet and all that’s on it is a guitar and we hear over the radio there has been a terrible snow storm and the plane the artistes were all in has crashed, there are no survivors.

Even though you know that’s what happens it never fails to leave you feeling sad, you’ve just spent the evening tapping along to great music. The tragedy of such talent, cut short so young. Buddy Holly was just 22 years old, Ritchie Valance, 17 and ‘Big Bopper ‘ 28 .

The performances and talent in the cast were fantastic, Buddy was so believable as were Ritchie Valens and Big Bopper. They had the audience singing and clapping along to the songs and by the end of the show, most of the audience was up dancing, some in the aisles and everyone calling for more encores. The individual talent of the performers and the fact they were clearly enjoying themselves couldn’t help but carry you along.

This really is a show for all ages, fast paced, full of energy and great songs is a must-see for all ages.

Reviewer - Catherine Gall
on - 22/10/19

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