Buddy Holly jukebox musical Buddy is 30 years old and shows no signs of slowing down or disappearing, having been performed all over the world. It covers the rapid rise of the ordinary guy in glasses who took the music world by storm performing his rock and roll hits with his band The Crickets.
Whilst Elvis and others delivered this new type of music with swagger and pelvic moves, Buddy appealed to audiences because he looked like the boy next door. John Lennon said: “He made it okay to wear glasses.” Even Bruce Springsteen listens to Buddy Holly before he goes on stage. He says it keeps him “honest”.
This upbeat and lively musical features all of the hits you know and love from Oh Boy through to Peggy Sue. They are performed with tremendous energy and verve by Christopher Weeks, who arrives on stage asa slightly unsure and shy musician and transforms into a great showman before your very eyes as Buddy’s success takes hold.
Other jukebox musicals such as Beautiful and Tina have genuine drama because the protagonists lived dramatic lives. But Buddy died when he was in his prime. His life was sadly cut short in a plane crash in which Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper also died.
This means that, narratively speaking, the show does not have that much to say. Instead of waiting for a plot to kick in, you wait for the next hit.
Alan Janes’ book is all about the hits. There are some funny moments but it just lacks the dramatic tension that something like Jersey Boys has in spades. Matt Salisbury is aware of this so he directs it very much like a gig, with the odd piece of dialogue.
The concert scenes have the feel of a live gig and the people in the audience who want to get up and dance get their moment in a rousing finale.
Cartier Fraser, Sasha Latoya and Miguel Angel are superb as three Apollo performers who bring a little bit of Harlem to Salford. Ben Pryer is more Ricky Martin than Ritchie Valens but has the stage presence to carry it off, and Joshua Barton has the audience in the palm of his hands as the Big Bopper.
Inoffensive and sweet natured, Buddy may not have the heartbreak and heartache that the songs contain but the performers and brilliant band ensure that you go home whistling Raining in my Heart whilst it’s raining on the outside too.
Buddy is at The Lowry until 31st January.