Saturday, 27 June 2009

Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story, June 27 ****

Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story 
Written by Alan Janes and Rob Bettinson
The Palms at Crown, June 27 to July 23, 2009
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Jun e27, 2009

BUDDY HOLLY DIED in 1959 at 22 after producing dozens of hit tunes in a couple of years. In a strange confluence of events, the opening of this 50th anniversary production coincides with the death of Michael Jackson. 

Both are credited with changing popular music in their time. A chilling coincidence is that Buddy was the first white singer to appear at the Apollo Theatre, Harlem, the place that launched Jacko.

Another formidably talented 22 year-old, Scott Cameron, plays Buddy. Cameron started playing guitar at 5 and his playing surpasses Holly’s own skill.  He reproduces Buddy’s unusual vocal quality, his leaping stage antics and peculiarly attractive geek appearance. He may not be the most experienced actor, but Cameron does not disappoint as Buddy.

Cameron is supported by a superb cast that includes: Luke Tonkin as the booming Big Bopper, Flip Simmons as writhing Ritchie Valens and James Nation-Ingle and Simon Bentley as The Crickets. The stage band is tight and versatile directed by Peter Laughton, and the chorus is impeccable. One star turn is rich-voiced Clare Chihambakwe (OK) as Ruby at the Apollo.

The show tells the story of Buddy’s rise from Country and Western singer in Lubbock, Texas to a Rock and Roll star. He dumps a lucrative contract at Decca to record with Norman Petty (Gerard Carroll), in New Mexico. After ten hit songs, he marries Maria Elena (Laura Bunting) and goes solo.

The finale is an exhilarating rock concert, Buddy’s final performance in Clearlake, Iowa. Knowing that Buddy, Big Bopper and Valens died that night in a plane crash heightens the excitement and tragedy for the audience who are on their feet bopping and singing by the end.

It is a treat to hear Buddy Holly’s hit songs, including love ballads It’s So Easy, Think It Over and Words of Love, Raining in My Heart and Heartbeat. But it is the rockin’ numbers that hit the spot: Peggy Sue, Maybe Baby, Oh Boy. The finale includes the Big Bopper’s Chantilly Lace and Ritchie Valens’ La Bamba and finishes with Johnny B Goode and Oh Boy. 

What would Buddy Holly be producing now if, in two short years, he made such a mark on rock and roll history?

By Kate Herbert

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