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21st April 2023

Review: Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story

Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story is one big party that lives up to its reputation as the world’s most successful rock’n’roll musical
Review: Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story
Christopher Weeks and the company. Photo: Hamish Gill

Are you ready to attend a massive lifelong party?

This is the story of Buddy Holly, a young man who “doesn’t want to be a country star”. He built his career in only 18 months, however, when you see his open-hearted, extremely cheerful, and a bit too positive personality, it seems that his goal was never to become a star but to play and promote his Rock’n’roll. This is a story about doing what you love, not about gaining success.

The show immerses the audience from the first scene, and for 2.5 hours you feel like you are a part of Buddy’s life story. You go along the path of his career, which he followed no matter what anyone else thought. At every stage of his life, either in the recording studio or in the Apollo theatre, you would see the kid who enjoys playing his music and tries to show the beauty of his songs to the audience. The energy is so positive and overwhelming that all your real-life issues take a backseat.

Some may think that the musical is a recreation of Buddy’s rocking and rolling story at the expense of his personal real-life story, for example, that he had to hide his marriage to avoid upsetting his fans. But the show transports you back in time to the American music culture of the mid-1950s.

Most of the second act is Buddy Holly’s last gig, at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, on the night he tragically died in a plane crash at the age of 22.

Despite the sad end, the whole musical is one massive party, which makes your feet move as soon as you hear the first sounds of guitars and drums. They make you smile throughout and have everybody on their feet at the end, including oldies who still rock.

By the end, you realise that even though this is “The Buddy Holly Story”, there are no supporting actors. Everyone on astage is special, and during the last ‘show’, you can change your focus from one person to another and feel that they are playing as if their part is the main and the only one.

The way Joe B. Mauldin (Joe Butcher) dances with his double bass, the vibe of Hipockets Duncan (Thomas Mitchells) spreads while singing with Marlena Madison (Same Durojaiye) and Chantel Williams (Laura-Dene Perryman), perplexing and rocking passion of Ritchie Valens (Miguel Angel). Last but not least, the overconfidence and cheap charm of ‘The Big Bopper’ (Christopher Chandler), give you an unbelievable energy and a feeling that these people do exactly what they love.

Buddy is extremely immersive and stunning. The vibes you get stay with you for days, and by the end of the musical, you seem to already know the words of ‘Peggy Sue’ and ready to Rock’n’Roll.

Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story runs at Manchester Opera House until April 22 and tours the UK until mid-October.

Written by Maria Plakhtieva

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