REVIEW: Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story, King’s Theatre, Glasgow

It was such a short life, brought to a tragic end on 3 February 1959, but a phenomenally enduring legacy that Charles Hardin ‘Buddy’ Holley, the boy from Lubbock, Texas who “didn’t want to be no country star” left behind.

First conceived in the late 1980s and credited as the first true jukebox musical. Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story spent over 14 years in the West End and has toured extensively since. All based on the life of a 22 year old man with an 18 month career. That the audience know there’s no happy ending yet still flock to see this show, demonstrates the love that exists for Holly’s music.

It is a simplistic show with music rightfully at its core. Nothing can ever compare to the immediacy of a live onstage band and the musicianship of the central trio Holly (A.J. Jenks), Joe B. Mauldin (Joe Butcher) and Jerry Allison (Josh Haberfield) is stunning, they are the beating heart of this production, breathing a life and fire into the proceedings. They are impressively supported by an ensemble cast of actor musicians doubling up on roles and providing colour to the story. Christopher Chandler is a lively Big Bopper and Miguel Angel is particularly impressive as Apollo performer Tyrone Jones (with an authentic 50s toned voice) and as the gyrating ball of fire Ritchie Valens (only 17 years old at his death).

Thankfully, the attention is all on the music as this production features a minimal set that represents recording studios, radio stations, publishers offices and Buddy and Elena’s apartment to name a few. To be frank, its all a bit flat and the only relief is when it transforms into the Apollo Theater, Harlem and Buddy’s last concert venue, The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake. One addition to this tour is a projection screen which seems to be little utilised.

A lot depends on audience reaction and Glasgow is always prepared for a party, building up a concert-like atmosphere, they are onside from curtain rise to fall.

Simple in its conception, focussing right, left and centre on the phenomenon that was the man and his music, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story is the template for every jukebox musical that followed. Yes, it’s corny at times but it is a hear-felt and fitting tribute. It shows that the 3rd of February 1959 wasn’t the day the music died but the start of a long legacy that makes its musical mark to this day.

At the King’s Theatre, Glasgow until Saturday 15 July 2023

Images: Rebecca Nead-Menear

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