Rock ‘n’ Roll icon Buddy Holly introduced the world of music to a sound it’d never heard before. Even though record labels remained cautious, the bespectacled, fresh faced singer/songwriter never gave up trying to prove that being somewhat different was a good thing, and when sitting through this musical and hearing the incredible songs he produced, audiences are so grateful for his persistence and ingenuity. The Royal & Derngate theatre in Northampton is currently home to The Buddy Holly Story and, while the overall book could do with some refreshing, the timeless classics of Buddy Holly are still as captivating and feel good as ever.
If you’ve been to see a jukebox musical before, the story line for this show will not be anything new. A young group known as The Crickets, led by Buddy (Roger Rowley), is trying to get a record deal with their rock ‘n’ roll sound, while being persuaded time and again that they should be sticking to country music. With a lot of hard work, Buddy and his friends Jerry (Adam Flynn) and Joe (Scott Haining) see their music progressively become known and appreciated around the world. With a string of hits such as “Peggy Sue”, “True Love Ways”, “Oh Boy”, and “That’ll Be The Day”, this show doesn’t go wrong when it comes to entertainment and musical value.
Rowley makes an exceptional Buddy Holly, and his voice transports the audience back to the 50s with his relentless energy and skilful guitar playing. There is a well-executed contrast between the endearingly awkward day-to-day Buddy, and the performing star Buddy who the audience cannot stop watching. The vocal similarity is uncanny, as are the fun ‘Buddy Holly’ moves during the songs. Each and every cast member make their characters their own, and it is obvious that they all have so much love for the music; Flynn and Haining especially have so many tricks up their sleeves and are clearly very gifted musicians and entertainers.
The first half is well paced when it gets going. The beginning of the second half however is quite slow, and the whole show would probably be improved without the 10-15 minutes of audience interaction which seemed an altogether unnecessary break in the story. The end of the second half however is the highlight of the evening and, even though we are reminded of the tragic plane crash that ended Buddy’s life when he was just 22 years old, his contribution to the world of music is further reiterated, especially when it hits home just how short a time he had to make it in.
Although perhaps not as slick, The Buddy Holly Story is very similar to Jersey Boys, in the way that you recognise almost every single song in the show, but you just didn’t realise who was behind them. This show will remind audiences of a time when music wasn’t about image or being part of the industry just to be famous, it was about the sound, the story, and playing the songs the crowds wanted to hear. Buddy Holly especially had a gift for the latter, and this show is an excellent dedication to him.