As a jukebox musical, Buddy still makes all the right moves, says Julia Taylor at the Manchester Opera House
4 Feb 2014
The song "Peggy Sue" constantly churns through my mind as I leave the Opera House after seeing the musical, Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story.
It's not only a run through of some of his most famous hits, but tells the life story of a man who tops the pops before his death in a plane crash at just 22.
The audience stand, sway and clap to numbers such as "Not Fade Away" , "Maybe Baby" and the unforgettable "That'll be The Day." And this day, 3rd February, was the day that he died - 55 years later. Not just Roger Rowley's Holly but the whole cast are swept up in a whirl of throbbing rhythms as they sing and dance the night away.
Buddy Holly makes an unlikely star. He's geeky, wears glasses and, is, initially, quite shy. It's probably not his looks that attract people but the beats reflecting their beating hearts. Rowley captures Holly as he was. He illustrates his competitiveness and will to carry on even when his mates in his backing group, the Crickets, are exhausted. He has a gorgeous voice and is an accomplished guitarist.
The highlight of the show is the concert at Clear Lake, Iowa with Ritchie Valens (Will Pearce) and the Big Bopper (Jason Blackwater), at which all three sing their hearts out before the fatal crash.
Holly's pregnant wife, Maria Elena, is played well by Vivienne Smith. In contrast to her innocence, Peter Kenworthy is the epitome of greed as Norman Petty, the record producer who grabs most of the group's earnings for himself.
The first half has more rehearsals than concerts, but the show is a great night out.