Well, judging by the enthusiasm and standing ovations at the opening night, fans of the show love its inoffensive charm just as much as they did nearly 20 years ago in the West End. The musical follows the short lived career of the bespectacled superstar who took the music world by storm in 1957. Two years later the young heart-throb died in a plane crash alongside Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper.
All the classics like "Peggy Sue", "Oh Boy" and "True Love Ways" are sung with a real affection by Elliot Harper as the ill-fated singer. We follow his brief rise to stardom, his love affair with Maria Elena (Carina Gillespie) and his world famous gigs. The great thing about the musical is that it perfectly captures the atmosphere of a live gig complete with audience participation and guitar solos.
The main problem here, though, is that despite being shown how great the man was, the show lacks that vital "Heartbeat" that Buddy himself sang about all those years ago. For instance, following the announcement of his death we quickly return to another toe tapping tune, thus removing the poignancy that has kept musicals like Blood Brothers alive.
Rob Bettinson’s uneven direction and book mean that the second half contains the sense of urgency the first act lacks. And the characterisation is cardboard and emotionless.
Adrian Rees' set is cleverly designed via its use of shadowed characters although it seems too small for the vast expanse of the touring venues. But with a huge back catalogue of hits Buddy wins over its loyal audience even if it is only during the rousing concert scenes.
- Glenn Meads (reviewed at the Lowry, Salford Quays)