BWW Reviews: BUDDY, Wolverhampton Grand, May 19 2014
Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story - has been seen by over 22 million people worldwide and has since been dubbed 'the world's most successful rock'n'roll musical'. Within his short two-year career, he wrote some supremely iconic music and influenced successive artists who wished to follow in Buddy's footsteps.
The production covers the three years leading up to his untimely death in February 1959; focusing on his bumpy rise to fame. Starting out as a country and western singer, Buddy realised that wasn't the genre of music he wanted to perform so he, along with local radio DJ 'Hipockets' Duncan, sought someone who would record the new rock'n'roll sound Buddy was creating. His search eventually led him to New York where he met his future wife, Maria Elena, to whom he proposed after only five hours!
Buddy Holly's story is an interesting and bittersweet one that makes for a very good show. However it would be nothing without a superb lead, in this case the insanely charming and charismatic Glen Joseph. His energy levels reach sky high levels and because of this, it is clear to see why an alternate Buddy does a couple of shows a week! Joseph lives and breathes the role and there is no complacency considering he has been involved with Buddy for several years. Joseph exudes musicality but really comes into his own when performing a stripped-back version of 'True Love Ways' in the second half. He is also a dab hand at managing all of the trailing cables when running around the stage!
The acting company mostly consists of actor musicians and very talented ones at that. There are good performances across the board; other stand-outs are Scott Haining (Joe) and Adam Flynn (Jerry) who make up the Crickets and compliment Joseph's Buddy very well. Jason Blackwater as the Big Bopper also shines during the Winter Dance Party section in Act Two.
In comparison to some shows, the set - designed by Adrian Rees - is quite dated but in all fairness, works for the benefit of the production. Matt Salisbury's direction makes use of the levels within the set well. Another key strength of the direction is that upon Buddy's death, the scene following was not overly sentimental which I liked - it was just a celebration of his music as it should be. Buddy, as a whole, is primarily about the sound and in general, this was achieved to a high level. Towards the end of Act One there were a couple of songs where the vocals vs instrumental levels were a little off but considering the amount of technicality, this was minor.
Buddy runs at the Wolverhampton Grand until 24 May 2014 and continues to tour until August.