Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story continues at the Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury until 11 March and then tours until 11 November.
Star rating: three stars ★ ★ ★ ✩ ✩
Twenty-eight years after its West End debut and 17 years on the road, Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story comes to the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre.
As its name suggests, the show follows the story of the late, great rock’n’roll pioneer Buddy Holly from his rise to stardom with the Crickets, marriage to Peermusic receptionist Maria Elena Santiago (Kerry Low) and his final performance at The Surf Ballroom with The Big Bopper (Thomas Mitchells) and Ritchie Valens (Jordan Cunningham).
Recent Arts Ed graduate Alex Fobbester stars as the eponymous Buddy, alternating the role with Glen Joseph at certain performances.
Fobbester provides a suitably fresh-faced and dorky Buddy, and impresses with his guitar skills, reeling off Holly’s hits with relative ease, though lacks a certain star quality and presence to truly set him apart from his bandmates.
Joe Butcher and Josh Haberfield provide high energy and humour as the Crickets, with Butcher’s onstage love affair with his double bass proving to be an intriguing subplot in itself.
Their scenes with Fobbester in the recording studio provide fascinating and humorous insight into the production of these now legendary songs.
Elsewhere, Mitchells bursts with charisma and character in an uncanny portrayal of The Big Bopper during the show-stealing ‘Chantilly Lace’, and Cunningham hypnotises as the hip-swivelling Ritchie Valens.
The production is let down by a few bizarre American accents from supporting cast members and unremarkable set and staging, all of which give the show a whiff of the amateur.
Act I was plagued by peaking microphones and it was unclear quite what the follow spot operator was up to, but they seemed to be having a great time up there.
Alan Janes’ book could also probably do with an update, one questionable example being in a moment before The Crickets’ performance at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, where Buddy attempts to shake the hand of the African-American MC who has gone to high-five him.
“They don’t understand that black shit,” the MC laughs to the Aylesbury Waterside audience…
Director Matt Salisbury’s biography proudly mentions his involvement on the show since its opening in 1989, but with a formidable song list and a bubbling energy hampered by a contrastingly run-of-the-mill production, it’s hard not to wish for a fresh pair of eyes on this much-loved musical to give its dedicated fans a night to remember.