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30th anniversary tour is a smash hit
Great music is timeless – as is great theatre. Put the two together and a sensational night out is guaranteed.Buddy – The Buddy Holly Storyis marking its 30th anniversary with a UK tour, bringing the tunes of the boy from Lubbock, Texas, to a whole new audience. Having said that, most of the audience at the opening night at The Alexandra were obviously rock & roll fans, singing along to the likes of Peggy Sue and Oh Boy, roaring their appreciation of non-Buddy hits such as Chantilly Lace and La Bamba and, finally, getting out of their seats for a dance and a standing ovation at the end.
Miguel Angel, AJ Jenks, Sasha Latoya, Cartier Fraser (pic: Rebecca Need-Menear)
I loved the show when I saw it at The Alexandra in 2017 (review here) but I think this anniversary version is even better. Propelled by an immensely talented cast, it zips along as it tells the tale of Buddy Holly and The Crickets, who, when they first got together in the mid-50s, were expected to play country music but chose rock and roll instead.
In the 18 months before his untimely death at the age of 22, Buddy's hits revolutionised music, paving the way for the likes of The Beatles. The show's first half chronicles the band's rise from a teenage outfit to being the first white rock & roll group to appear at Harlem's Apollo Theatre.
Hannah Price, AJ Jenks, Joe Butcher, Josh Haberfield (pic: Rebecca Need-Menear)
In the second half we see how Buddy has a whirlwind romance with, and marriage to, record company receptionist Maria Elena Santiago. Despite her protests, he later embarks on the 1959 Winter Dance Party tour that culminates in his final concert at The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. The recreation of the gig, with The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens, is the highlight of Buddy and had the Birmingham audience cheering and singing along.
Birmingham-born AJ Jenks is terrific as Buddy, contrasting youthful enthusiasm, as he's inspired to write new songs, with powerful ambition, that sees him rejecting advice from record company executives to achieve his goals. During the tour, the role is shared with Christopher Weeks, who on opening night played The Crickets' guitarist Niki Sullivan. The Crickets' line-up is completed by Joe Butcher as extrovert bassist Joe B Mauldin and Josh Haberfield as drummer Jerry Allison.
The show certainly works its cast hard. Harry Boyd seems to be rarely off stage as he takes at least six roles, including radio DJ, record producer, MC at Clear Lake and trumpeter in the finale.
Talented musician Rhiannon Hopkins is fantastic as, among other things, pianist (and wife of producer Norman Petty) Vi Petty, then contributing keyboards and sax to the Clear Lake gig. Also playing sax was Hannah Price, who doubled up as Buddy's wife Maria Elena.
Clear Lake (pic: Rebecca Need-Menear)
Close to stealing the show were Joshua Barton as The Big Bopper and Ben Pryer as Ritchie Valens, alongside Buddy veteran Miguel Angel (also the choreographer, company manager and the technical team's resident director).
Let's not forget soulful singers Cartier Fraser and Sasha Latoya who, in a change to the 2017 tour, raise the roof with Shout in the Apollo Theatre segment. And Jordan Alexander elicits some laughs as singer Jack Daw when he appears with all-girl group, Snowbirds.
I can't wait for the 31st-anniversary tour!
Venue: The Alexandra, Birmingham
Buddy is at The Alexandra until March 7. The show will then tour the UK:
Mar 10 - 14: Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury; Mar 24 - 28: Grand Opera House, York;
Mar 30 - Apr 4: Theatre Royal, Bath;
Apr 7 - 11: His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen;
Apr 14 - 18: Grand Theatre, Swansea;
Apr 21 - 25: Wyvern Theatre, Swindon;
Apr 28 - May 2: Queens Theatre, Barnstaple;
May 5 - 9: Princess Theatre, Torquay;
May 11 - 13: Empire Theatre, Liverpool;
May 19 - 23: White Rock Theatre, Hastings;
May 26 - 30: King's Theatre, Edinburgh;
June 1 - 6: Theatre Royal, Newcastle upon Tyne;
June 8 - 9: Venue Cymru. Llandudno;
June 11 - 13: Corn Exchange, Kings Lynn;
June 16 - 20: Churchill Theatre, Bromley;
June 22 - 27: Kings Theatre, Portsmouth;
June 30 - July 4: Lyceum Theatre, Crewe;
July 15 - 19: Cliffs Pavilion, Southend-on-Sea;
July 21 - 25: Alhambra Theatre, Bradford.