The popular West End musical Buddy will officially celebrate its 5,000th performance tonight, 16 October 2001. Although there had been some dispute as to which date officially constituted the 5,000th show, the production enters its 13th year this evening, so tonight's showing has been designated as the anniversary.

Buddy was originally conceived by producer Laurie Mansfield in 1989, and writer Alan Janes is believed to have based the show on the 1978 movie The Buddy Holly Story. The story portrays the rise to fame and untimely death of the American rock ‘n’ roll singer who died at the age of 21. Holly’s struggling teenage career began in Texas, where his rock 'n' roll sounds weren’t favoured by the country music lovers of the area, and Buddy ends with a depiction of the last concert he performed. Featuring songs such as Peggy Sue and Why Do Fools Fall In Love, the actors are also musicians performing as a live stage band.

Alan Janes’ career commenced when a stage play he had written received a TV adaptation. He has also scripted three TV films based on Prisoners of Conscience, including Nelson Mandela, and created the comedy drama Prospects. In addition, Janes has created works for radio and wrote the film Winter Flight for David Puttnam. Buddy has won numerous awards, including the 1991 Oliviers for Best New Musical and Best Actor In A Musical.

The London run kicked off at the Victoria Palace on 12 October 1989, before closing there in 1995. It reopened at its current home, the Strand Theatre, on 6 October 1995. Buddy is directed by Rob Bettinson, whose other works include Jolson at Victoria Palace. The lead role is currently performed by Gus MacGregor who has appeared as Buddy for nearly six years. Holly’s widow, Maria-Elena Holly, saw the show and commented that it was almost like seeing her late husband actually performing.

- by Gareth Thompson