City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Buddy: the Buddy Holly Story, Edinburgh Playhouse, July 2011, Review

By Gordon Clayton - Posted on 12 July 2011

Buddy Holly and Friends in Buddy
Show Details
Buddy Worldwide Ltd by arrangement with Maria Elena Holly
Matt Salisbury(Director), Lizzie Gee (Choreographer), John Banister (Musical Supervision)
Glen Joseph (Buddy), Dan Graham (Jerry Allison), Christopher Redmond (Joe B. Mauldin), Steve Dorsett (the Big Bopper), Michael Angel (Ritchie Valens), Melissa Keys (various), Felicity Chilver (Maria Elena)
Running time: 

Having seen a Fringe production of the Buddy Holly Story and not been too impressed, it was with some reservations that I went to see the touring version of a show that has run for over 22 years in London’s West End. A young woman leaving the theatre who looked unlikely to have been born in 1989 was aglow - “Just brilliant”, she enthused.

So what has this the story of a short lived rock 'n’ roll legend from the 1950s got to extract such a reaction from someone so young as well as the predominantly older audience. It  has to be not only the music, but the way it’s performed by a talented cast led ably by Glen Joseph in the title role.

Buddy Holly's life story is depicted in a series of scenes mainly in studios and theatres with a few exceptions.

The show opens in the local radio station where Buddy hired to sing country and western lets rip with some rock 'n’ roll to the consternation of the station manager and their listeners apart from the young.

From a false start with Decca, Holly portrays a guy who believes in his music as he tackles record producers head on until he finds a base in New Mexico that launches his recording career with his home town backing duo the Crickets. A booking in New York’s Apollo Theatre in Harlem provides some humour as the organisers having listened to the music expect black performers. Melissa Keyes as the presenter at the Apollo makes a lively contribution and the audience are soon won over by Buddy Holly and the Crickets.

Apart from having to report in to his mother, Buddy’s personal life features once he meets and decides to marry Maria Elena in a whirlwind romance from meeting to engagement  in less than five hours. The marriage and the touring are not ideal and when they return to the studio in New Mexico a mixture of professional and personal issues leads Buddy to split from his record producer and the Crickets.

Up to this point this has been a good show with some great songs and an authentic sound, a limited set but an opportunity to feel the music of the times.

The last scenes include the final concert at Clear Lake Concert featuring Buddy, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens. This concert section was exceptionally good and really had the Playhouse rocking. The ‘intermission’ scene was also handled really well by Gary Trainor -  with his interaction with a member or the audience a bonus

 Miguel Angel as Ritchie always looking to score with the ladies and Steve Dorsett with the voice and the stage presence as the Big Bopper make an impact but Glen Joseph moves up a several gears to really become ‘Buddy’ not just with his rendition of the back catalogue but in the mesmerising footwork where he moves round the stage with speed and agility.

The show is at its best when it’s a concert and in that respect it is extremely entertaining. The sound quality of the music is first class although occasionally some of the dialogue was less so. The choreography of the final concert demonstrates how energetic the whole development of rock 'n’roll was and the whole cast play their part in creating an atmosphere clearly enjoyed by an audience who gave them sustained applause at the finale.

Show times

Runs to Saturday 16 July, 7.30pm; 2.30pm (Wednesday & Saturday only)