With hits like 'Peggy Sue', 'Maybe Baby' and 'Not Fade Away', it’s hardly surprising this musical is as good as it is. But while the hits are the heart of the show, the cast are phenomenal at bringing them to life.Buddy Holly was seminal to the birth of rock and roll. Artists ranging from The Beatles to The Stones, Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan have all cited Buddy Holly as a vital influence on their work. Everyone knows at least one, and likely more, of his hits. And this mighty musical impact was all achieved in the two short years between him earning fame with 'That’ll Be the Day' in 1957 and his tragic death in 1959.
Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story covers these two years, starting with Buddy and the Crickets performing on his hometown radio station in Lubbock Texas, through recording in the studio with Norman Petty and travelling to New York and meeting his wife-to-be Maria Elena.An especially spectacular scene takes place at the Apollo theatre in Harlem. Lydia Fraser and Miguel Angel perform a thoroughly soul-tastic version of 'Shout', which places you right in 50s black America. It’s the perfect set-up for the arrival of the assumed-to-be-black Buddy Holly and the Crickets, really heightening the sense of the revolutionary power of Buddy’s music.
Roger Rowley played Buddy in this particular performance and completely inhabited the role. He was energetic, angular and self-assured in his playing and singing. Even so, the strength of the rest of the cast is such that they are not outshone, but rather complement and enhance every burst of evergreen rock and roll.The set is effective and slick, the costumes spot-on (especially The Big Bopper’s leopard print and gold lamé jacket and Ritchie Valens tight, shiny pelvis-enhancing trousers). The instrumental talent coursing through cast holds everything together. Scott Haining’s rendition of bassist Joe B Mauldin had him flinging his double bass around the stage like a rag doll, all the while keeping the rhythm going.
By the end of the show the entire audience was up dancing, singing and whooping – which is saying a lot for an Oxford audience! An absolutely incredible performance: there is no doubt, this show is not to be missed.