“A rich heart that puts the music of a generation at the fore front “
*** 3 Stars
Buddy Holly, the man who transcended pop music in the late 50’s had a remarkable career not just for the pop classics he produced but the staggering fact his career only lasted a shade over two years before the air crash that took his life along side Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper. His legacy has remained with a generation of his fans. Its source material which found its way to the west end in 1989 when Buddy the Buddy Holly Story opened at the Victoria Palace before transferring to the Novello and onto the Duchess across its twelve year run in the west end.
After several UK Tours and lengthy rest the Buddy Holly story hits the road once again in a brand new UK tour and calls at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre for a week’s run. It’s a show very much of the Old School musical but with a rich heart that puts the music of a generation at the fore front.
This production relies on its stellar cast and succeeds in every aspect lead by AJ Jenks as Buddy Holly, it’s a nuanced performance delivered with a polished vocal, and his is an engaging and engrossing performance throughout. Christopher Chandler’s “Big Bopper” and Miguel Angel’s “Ritchie Valens” deserve credit too for their uncanny takes on some of rock and rolls greatest icon. The leads are joined by an excellent nine strong ensemble of musician performers and the concert scenes really let rip thanks to their incredible talents.
Technically its sadly all a bit below par, Adrian Ross’s design is so evocative of the time period but it’s all on the small side and clearly designed to make touring to the smallest venues possible by simply folding it up and a production with such a lineage deserves more. Pete Cox’s sound design works wonderfully for the concerts scenes however there were major sound issues on press night, with mic’s not working and masses of popping and interference on both head and hand held mics combined, hopefully it’s just bedding in issues that can be sorted. Darren Cooplands Lighting design is wonderful in the moments it comes alive but even that feel like it could be bigger and better.
Director Matt Salisbury brings an old school charm to the production in its style and pacing as he places the music at the forefront, however the reliance on lingering moments in the dark does start to grate. The production is written and produced by Alan James, and his script is filled with information but the bulk of this comes during these elongated black outs.
One moment that was clear that there were technical issues was Thomas Mitchell’s front of house tabs scene in the role of Clear Lake MC, he played wonderfully for time while a set change was taking place, we know this because a cue light was left in full view of the audience, his ability to engage with the audience and adlib off the cuff was wonderful, and hopefully he won’t be waiting too long for that green light in future.
Essentially Buddy the Buddy Holly Story delivers everything it says it should and had the audience on their feet for a rousing finale that not even the revelation of the three main stars demise could diminish. For a generation of audience goers this defines their youth and thanks to this show they get to revel in it once more and that’s the winning charm of the production over all.
Buddy the Buddy Holly Story, Festival Theatre Edinburgh, Runs until Saturday 18th March, for tickets go to: Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story (capitaltheatres.com)