Theatre Royal Windsor (venue)
24 February 2020 (released)
25 February 2020
Thinking of Buddy Holly brings to mind Don McLean’s plaintive voice bemoaning ‘the day the music died’. Whilst the show touches on Buddy’s tragic early death, it is a jubilant celebration of his musical talent and his enduring influence on the generations of musicians to come.
At first, I struggled to decipher the drawling American South accents but then I quickly got used to them – or did the accents soften? I loved the bright colourful sets and the 50s clothes and hairdos – especially the enduring classic combination of blue Levis 501s + a white shirt with cowboy hat, boots and neck-tie.
Early in his performing career, Buddy insisted on keeping his glasses on. His dark thick-rimmed spectacles sent a clear message that with song writing imagination and exceptional skill, he didn’t need to be conventionally sexy to be successful.
We see Buddy & the Crickets struggle to get a contract with their new musical sound. From their Texan roots in country and blue grass, Holly and the boys were drawn to the fresh Rock’n’Roll melodies pouring out of the radio. With determined relentlessness, they kept knocking on the doors and once they got an opening, they enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame and worldwide popularity.
Buddy falls for Maria Elena and proposes within hours of meeting her. When his mother disapproves because his wife-to-be is Hispanic, the headstrong Buddy is not deterred. In a particularly moving scene, Buddy expresses his love for Maria Elena through a song he’s penned for her. The sweetly evocative ballad ‘True Love Ways’ highlights the unusual juxtaposition of his youthful intensity with a calm wisdom.
Buddy and the Crickets overcame prejudice in a ground-breaking concert at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. Maybe this all white group were booked to perform in error but they stumbled through the initial awkwardness and proceeded to wow a challengingly difficult black audience. We too, their real life audience, are soon clapping and singing along to their infectiously up beat and highly memorable tunes.
It’s not just Buddy’s songs that you’ll enjoy, there’s a selection of other great 50s hits to relish. There’s an energetic ‘Reet Petite’ and high octane version of the Rock’n’Roll classic, ‘Shout’. Buddy Holly is joined for his final show by the Big Bopper performing ‘Chantilly Lace’ (Whoa Baby, you know what I like!) and the teenage Mexican star, Ritchie Valens hip thrusting to ‘La Bamba’. It would be a big ask to replicate the superlative quality of the originals but all the performers give us their best renditions in this engaging live performance.
By the finale, the appreciative audience were on their feet applauding with delight. Oh Boy! This show is a joyful firework display that’ll shower you with happiness.