Reviewed by Helen Wyatt
Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story – is back at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth 30 years after it first opened there in 1989, having spent time touring around the world to great acclaim. Buddy is the story of Buddy Holly’s rise from unknown local musician, playing little gigs in his hometown of Lubbock, Texas, his exploration and owning of the Rock and Roll genre (doing it HIS WAY!), through to his very untimely death at the age of 22. We are treated to almost 30 songs in this 2½ hour show, which were delivered with expert musicianship, covering everything from the quiet ballads to loud extravaganzas such as Jonny B Good with a full orchestra. We saw how it might have been for the Southern backyard boys to play at the all black Harlem theatre in New York, and how they might actually have carried it off with style, and we also saw Buddy fall in love, define his own style (“Buddy Holly wears glasses!”) and win over everyone’s hearts along the way.
The casting is cleverly done, with Harry Boyd playing several key characters such as Hipockets Duncan, Norman Petty, and a fantastic MC of a show at “Clearlake”, fully immersing the audience into the experience.
AJ Jenks gave a superb performance as Buddy, really delivering on his vocal quirks, his dance moves, and his guitar playing. All of these were spot on, bringing the essence of Buddy to the stage for us all to enjoy. Buddy was supported brilliantly by the Crickets, played by Christopher Weeks, Jordan Alexander and Joe Butcher; together they became a close-knit musical group, able to deliver perfect comedy timing as well as expertly executed musical numbers.
Notable mentions too, to Ben Pryer who played Ritchie Valens, and Joshua Barton who played the Big Bopper. Their delivery of these characters was exceptional, and really brought the show alive with their performances of numbers such as Chantilly Lace and La Bamba.
We were a truly British audience, being slightly embarrassed to clap along unless directed to do so by someone on the stage, but by the end we were all on our feet, dancing and singing along. The cast did a remarkable job to break through the British stiffness and get us all moving! They ended with a standing ovation and calls for MORE!
This was a fantastic show which I enjoyed every minute of. It was truly as authentic as it could be in terms of costume, hairstyles, sets and dialogue, particularly from AJ Jenks as Buddy. The show managed to tell Buddy’s story, in the few short years he was in the limelight, and also keep the audience fully engaged and entertained throughout. A truly mesmerising performance that will be sure to get you tapping, clapping and singing along.
I would highly recommend this to anyone (note that there are one or two minor swear words, but otherwise suitable for all ages).
You will find when you visit Plymouth’s Theatre Royal that you are given a warm welcome. We were even treated to the red carpet on arrival! It is a bright and airy theatre which not only shows plays, musicals and other productions, but also shows local artists work. There is ample local parking within easy reach of the theatre and you can grab a quick bite to eat in the cafe before the show or have a more leisurely meal in the restaurant.
Tickets cost from £15 to £36.50 (booking fees may apply).
Buddy is at the Theatre Royal in Plymouth from 2-7 September 2019, for more information or to book tickets visit www.theatreroyal.com or call the box office on 01752 267222.
Theatre Royal Plymouth, Royal Parade, Plymouth, PL1 2TR | 01752 267222