Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story Review

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story – Civic Theatre, Darlington

Posted by: The Reviews Hub – Yorkshire & North East 



Writer: Alan Janes

Music: Buddy Holly

Lyrics: Buddy Holly

Director: Matt Salisbury


Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story rocked into Darlington town this week. This two act show walked us through Buddy Holly’s meteoric three-year career and tragic death by way of radio D.J’s announcing pivotal plot points. Each transition is followed by music-induced scenes with all the instruments played by the very talented cast.

In 1989, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story became one of the first jukebox musicals. It opened in London, with financial support from Paul McCartney. The show ran for 12 years in London and for six months on Broadway. Numerous tours all over the world have been mounted ever since, and this marks the 25th Anniversary tour in the 55th year of the tragically early death of the talented Mr. Holly.

Alan Janes’ story recounts the story of Holly’s rise to fame. Starting out in Lubbock Texas singing Country, Buddy rebelled to sing Rock n’ Roll getting a recording contract in New Mexico. He recorded numerous hits before his tragic death at the age of 22, including the song that started off as ‘Cindy Lou’ but which became famous as ‘Peggy Sue’, because his drummer wanted to get lucky with a girl by that name. Interspaced between the DJ’s announcements and reports, there a few acted scenes which allow characters to tell Holly that some people in Texas don’t like his songs because they sound like “coloured music”, and that he’ll never make it because he has “as much sex appeal as a telegraph pole.” There’s mention of his family’s tiling business and his mother’s desire to make sure he eats enough, but nothing else about his life before he hit the singing circuit. With the emphasis firmly on the music, the end of act one has a 10 minute mini concert that acts as a taster of what’s to come, with the last 30 minutes of act 2 being a nonstop tour-de-force concert sequence.

Glen Joseph is excellent in the main rôle. His singing, guitar playing and charming smile are a winning combination and he clearly enjoys the rôle. Jason Blackwater as the Big Bopper is completely over the top in his performance, but it works and his ‘Chantilly Lace’ had everyone singing along and joining in with “Hello Baby”. Will Pearce is Ritchie Valance and he gives a highly memorable execution of La Bamba.

The ending is poignant in its brutal simplicity, fading from the loud rocking concert to a spotlight on the guitar and glasses and a sobbing DJ telling the world of the fateful plane crash and a moments silence before returning back to the concert in full swing. The show ended with audience, the majority of which were over a certain age and had extra santogen with their interval drinks and ice cream, on their feet clapping, dancing and singing along.

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story is produced with kind permission of María Elena Holly, owner of the rights to his name, image, trademarks, and other intellectual property.