There is musical theatre and then there is Buddy – so full of hit songs that it feels like a concert.
Upbeat, energetic and hugely entertaining, Buddy charts the period from musical trailblazer Buddy Holly switching from country music to the rock ‘n’ roll that made his name, to the last day he played. For fans of music it is a must-see.
The tragedy of Holly is as well-known as his hits, and this poignancy underlines the story and the infectious enthusiasm of the star, well conveyed by AJ Jenks (the role is split across performances).
Though his life was cut short at the age of just 22, Holly left a remarkable musical legacy, which is brought to the fore in this show with a focus on celebrating his achievements.
Holly was a young man on a mission, moving at lightning pace and the energy of the show and musical performances seem to capture this as Buddy zips past with never a dull moment.
Surprisingly for the subject matter, the script is funny as well as inspirational. Not only did Holly write unforgettable songs, he was incredibly nice, dedicated to doing things his way – and broke down racial and social barriers through his musical journey.
All of this, however, is portrayed with a lightness of touch that keeps the emphasis on entertainment. Even Holly’s tragic death is played in a way that allows the emphasis to remain on celebrating his life and music.
The plot detail may be light but it is the music that benefits. The cast members are exceptional in their musical and acting abilities and are a joy to watch. To a person the delivery, but more importantly their charisma, really engages the audience.
Jenks absolutely takes on the persona of Holly, with an irrepressible enthusiasm that is impossible to resist. He is backed by the equally energetic and characterful Joe Butcher as Joe B Mauldin and Josh Haberfield as Jerry Allison, aka The Crickets.
But the talent is in abundance, with Joshua Barton delivering an excellent take on the Big Bopper and Miguel Angel’s scene-stealing turn as Ritchie Valens. The hard-working Harry Boyd switches from scene to scene to piece together the backstory as Hipockets Duncan and Norman Petty, as well as a producer, MC and DJ.
Jam-packed with the classics that define Holly including That’ll be the Day, Peggy Sue, Rave on, Everyday and Words of Love along with classics such as Long Tall Sally, Reet Petit and Shout, it is no surprise that Buddy had the audience members up on their feet.
Watching Buddy it is easy to see why it has remained so popular over the last 30 years.
Catch Buddy at The Regent Theatre until 22 February.