Saturday, September 30

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story – Sheffield Lyceum

A celebration of the love and power of music.

With its premier in the West End in August 1989, Buddy, The Buddy Holly Story has been in production worldwide ever since, with over 10,000 performances thus giving it claim to the most successful Jukebox musical ever. The Sheffield attendees were on their feet by the end of the show and the musicianship of the cast was received with raptures by the 1400 strong Yorkshire audience.

The issues Holly faced, due in part, to the American music culture of the mid 1950’s, during the 18 months his career was built are glossed over in this production as we see his meteoric rise to global stardom. All is very positive and ‘happy’ and we are presented with a young man who just wanted his rock ‘n’ roll music heard, Holly ‘never wanted’ to be the country music artist his early exposure dictated. The love of music is definitely apparent on stage by the whole cast.

Written & produced by Alan Janes, the show invites the audience to follow – be part of – Holly’s life and can be defined as being two concerts – Act 1 and Act 2 – with historical/narrative facts conjoining the two.  This production picks up speed as it progresses and in my opinion is a little draw out initially. Act 1 consists of Buddy Holly and The Crickets playing at their hometown of Lubbock, Texas where they initially move from Country to Rock n Roll music. Decca records now rejecting them they hook up with producer Norman Petty in New Mexico (no mention of the legal battle between these two) and it is here Holly meets his wife Maria Elena. The New York, Harlem Apollo’s historic 1957 concert (Buddy & the Crickets were the first white group to appear there) closes the first Act with much comedy made of the fact. The second Act is totally given over to the fateful night in 1959 and Holly’s last appearance at the Surf Ballroom, Clear Lake alongside The Big Bopper and Richie Valens. 

Photo: Hamish Gill

As could be expected the set is predominately a generic stage setting with the occasional pieces of furniture to represent the interiors of offices/ recording studios and Holly’s home. Adrian Rees is Designer and the rest of the Technical team is made up of Pete Cox as Sound Designer, Darren Coopland as Lighting Designer, Miguel Angel as Choreographer and Dean Elliott as Musical Supervisor. 

The cast are superb and it isn’t until the second act do you see their multi-talented glory, there are no Supporting Actors in this cast. The cast all playing their own instruments and multiple other instruments too! During the second act you can only wonder at the skill on display as each cast member sweeps you away in their own individuality.

Christopher Weeks takes on the title role with the geeky brilliance Buddy Holly in known for. Much more than an imitation, the joy of his music making oozes from every pore and his finale performance is sensational.  The Crickets played by Joe Butcher, Josh Haberfield and AJ Jenks are show stealing, you can’t miss Butcher and his tricks whilst playing Double Bass. Thomas Mitchell’s multi role playing as Hipockets Duncan amongst many other keeps the action moving and the audience participation fresh.  Laura-Dene Perryman and Samuelle Durojaiye deliver some wonderful vocals and work so hard on that stage! Jacob Leeson and Ewan Ling as Hayriders and Jackdaw are superb. Stephanie Cremona as Vi Petty plays a mean piano and saxophone. Daniella Agredo Piper is memorising as Maria Elana and her alto sax is smooth! The Big Bopper (Christopher Chandler) cranks the role up to new heights with his exuberant performance. But, difficult to choose, it had to be Miguel Angel as Tyrone Jones & Richie Valens who stole the show for me. What a talent, when he as was on stage I couldn’t take my eyes off him!

Whether you are a Buddy Holly fan or not, you cannot fail to be carried along by a cast of this calibre. Do not miss this toe tapping, feel good show, even with its sad conclusion we are left rejoicing in the sheer love of music displayed both in and out of the story. Buddy, The Buddy Holly Story is at the Sheffield Lyceum until Saturday 8th July… ‘That’ll Be the Day’, not ‘Everday’ you can ‘Rave On’!

Reviewed Tracey Bell

Reviewed: 4th July 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.