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Review of Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story at Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton

If you are even vaguely aware of the story of Buddy Holly, there is no shying away from the fact that be it almost sixty years ago, this musical of his life seems sure to end generally on a very sad note. However of course, it doesn't, it leaves us for two reasons wanting more; we want the show to continue with its final scenes collapsing into a high spirited concert feel, and we just wanted more from Buddy, full stop.

Over a period of just eighteen months between 1957 and 1959, Buddy along with The Crickets, went from jobbing local performers on a country themed radio show, to world recognition, and a collection of perhaps the very best of songs of that breakthrough period for music. At a time when Elvis was creating brilliance accompanied to his gyrating hips, Buddy was perhaps even more of an innovator, casting off the shackles of country, and even heaven forbid, performing with his glasses on. He wanted to be constantly different and inventive. It truly make you wonder where he could have gone with his work, had things been so different.

So in just eighteen months a remarkable and timeless collection of tunes like That'll Be The Day, Peggy Sue, Everyday, Oh Boy and Heartbeat were formed. All are remarkably well brought to life during The Buddy Holly Story by the very strong cast. Leading as Buddy for this performance (the tour interchanges for the lead) is Alex Fobbester. He cuts the perfect likeness on stage, has the twitchy busy minded behavior, and a very impressive vocal similarity to cover Buddy's very distinctive persona. The performance of Everyday in particularly is quite brilliant.

The musical numbers are where this show absolutely works and thankfully there are a lot of them, especially in the second half. As we finally reach Clear Lake, the final concert, this show has become something quite special. This includes the arrival of Thomas Mitchells spirited performance as The Big Bopper and a brilliant Jordan Cunningham as Ritchie Valens. Another highlight (but surely couldn't have happened time wise) is a brilliant performance of Shout by Miguel Angel and Jordan Cunningham as Apollo Theatre performers.

Much of any problems with The Buddy Holly Story lie very much in the first half, the quite sluggish storytelling is disappointing, leaving dull scripting from Alan Janes. It features an understandably teasing recording scene at Norvajak Studios, leaving the impact of the songs in full to the second half, but because of this goes hardly anywhere, and where is does, very slowly. Design from Adrian Rees is also unremittingly dull, with just one genuine set change in the show as we arrive at Clear Lake. The rest of it, is simply created by a succession of items being wheeled on and off. Lighting work however from Darren 'Daz' Coopland is the complete opposite, with swift and ingenious work.

However, this show has run non-stop since 1989 and that is no small achievement (but perhaps it does need a booster for the 21st Century). It is certain that this success though is because of its telling of such a well known story, and with a remarkable collection of music. This production though has some amazing performances from the cast, and the second half is a remarkably joyful piece of theatre, and includes a wonderful, very final tribute to the man himself. For any possible fan of the music of that era, The Buddy Holly Story, despite some faults, comes very recommended.

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Performance reviewed: Saturday 12th November, 2016 at the Royal & Derngate (Derngate), Northampton.

Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story performed at the Royal & Derngate between Monday 7th and Saturday 12th, November 
and continues its tour into 2017. Details of dates and locations can be found at http://www.buddythemusical.com/
For further details visit the Royal & Derngate website at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk/

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