Review: Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story sings the praises of a musical genius

Foot stomping performance: Roger Rowley as Buddy Holly
19 Feb 2014 @ 2.09 pm
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Foot stomping performance: Roger Rowley as Buddy Holly
Foot stomping performance: Roger Rowley as Buddy Holly

Review: Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story
Venue: Grand Opera House, February 17

I’m the first to admit that I can be hard to please, especially when I go to the theatre, and even more so when the show is about something I love. I love Buddy Holly’s music, and the movie of his life story will always be one of my favourites.

Roger Rowley took on the roll of this iconic legend and totally did it justice. From the silly little leg kicks, to the range in voice, and the guitar playing over his head or laid down on the floor, he gave an impressive performance.

I can safely say the show was one of the best I have ever seen, and judging by the audience response I wasn’t the only happy punter there. The dress circle vibrated under foot as people tapped their feet in time to the music.

The small stage was put to great use with a cleverly designed set over two heights, and we moved from venue to bedroom, radio station to recording studio, New York streets to an apartment interior before becoming the Surf Ballroom at Clear Lake, Iowa.

Several of the cast members had multiple roles, and carried them all out well. The first to grab my attention was Vi, played by Sarah Mahony, as she approached the piano, dressed in her nightgown and robe before surprising us with her rock and roll piano skills whilst wiggling her behind at the audience.

There was a clever use of snippets of songs to convey the passing of time in the recording studio in Clovis, New Mexico.

The supporting act at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem was hugely entertaining. Lydia Fraser has a great voice and Miguel Angel practically performed the splits in their rendition of Shout.

This wasn’t just a set list of songs, it was a very clever rendition of the 18 months of Buddy Holly’s career. There were scenes where it was just dialogue, tying together the musical moments flawlessly.

Entertaining little moments are dotted throughout the show, such as the change of name to Peggy Sue and the synchronised sofa sitting in the New York office – touches that help bring the story to life.

The latter part of the second act is set in the Surf Ballroom, and you become the audience attending the show that fateful night. This does mean you’re subject to the cheesy and tuneless intermission entertainment, which raised more than one groan from the audience but lots of laughter.

It obviously is a story where you already know the ending, and I have to say I thought it was brilliantly crafted. It brought a tear to my eye at one point, but rock’n’roll will always live on.

We were treated to some fantastic songs with Buddy, the Big Bopper (Jason Blackwater) and Ritchie Valens (Will Pearce) singing together and having a ball on the stage. The energy was viral and spread to the audience. I don’t think there was anyone in the theatre who wasn’t joining in in some way, be that foot tapping, clapping, swaying or singing along.

The how will be at the Grand Opera House until Saturday, February 22, and Oh Boy is it a show worth seeing!