Festival Theatre, Edinburgh – until 18 March 2023
Reviewed by Rachel Farrier
Unlike seemingly every member of the enthusiastic audience at the performance of Buddy that I attended, I thought I didn’t really know anything about the music of Buddy Holly, so was arriving to this musical with a ‘clean slate’ in terms of my expectations. It was clear from the opening bars of the show that I was surrounded by serious Buddy fans – ladies who might have been young when he was in his prime were bouncing on their seats with excitement, and the final half an hour of the show saw plenty of dancing in the aisles. It was clear that the audience last night loved every minute of it. There were a perhaps surprising number of younger folks in the audience too, and they were no less enthusiastic.
And it turned out that although I thought I did not know his music, I did actually know a lot of Buddy Holly songs – such is the enduring nature of his appeal.
AJ Jenks put in a tremendous performance as Buddy the musician – a fabulous voice and seemingly endless energy brought Buddy Holly’s songs truly to life. All the cast members also performed as musicians throughout, which always strikes me as an incredible feat – all were incredibly impressive, but a special mention must go to Joe Butcher as Joe B. Maudlin who performed simply unbelievable acrobatic feats with his double bass – whilst playing it!
The musical numbers were obviously the focus of the show, and there were certainly sections of dialogue which felt somewhat stilted and slow, but it was never long before another hit returned the energy to the stage, and some of the performances from the other ‘acts’ of the period were outstanding – Samuelle Durojaiye and Laura-Dene Perryman as Marlena Madison and Chantel Williams absolutely stole the show with their barnstorming set in the scene from the Apollo, Harlem. Miguel Angel as both Tyrone Jones and Ritchie Valens brought dynamism and humour, along with a magnificent voice.
The youth and vitality of the whole cast only emphasised further the tragedy of Buddy Holly’s death at the age of 22, and there is an inevitable poignancy to any reflection on his life and music, but what a tribute this show is to him. The show had officially ended by the time I left the theatre but most of the audience were on their feet and still dancing the night away, unwilling to leave – indeed I wouldn’t be surprised if they were still there now. I for one am a new convert, and will looking up Buddy’s back catalogue on Spotify..