Review: Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, Mayflower Theatre, 20 June 2023

Review: Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, Mayflower Theatre, 20 June 2023

By Joy McKay

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story was one of the very first ‘Jukebox Musicals’ premiering in 1989.

It is part biopic, part gig and 100% celebration of the incredible and tragically short career of the Incongruously bespectacled Rock ‘n’ Roll legend Buddy Holly. After six years the show returns to The Mayflower.

The show is framed and narrated by Thomas Mitchells switching jackets to play five different characters who were instrumental in the success of Buddy Holly and The Crickets.

His performance was fantastic and had the entire theatre in stitches when taking on the role of MC the Winter Dance Party where the boys were joined by their friends Richie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson.

I was lucky to be able to interview A.J. Jenks back in February, who performs as Buddy and Cricket Niki Sullivan in this tour. He Told me about the ‘Actor Musicians’ in this production, a term I was not previously aware of. This means that all the music you see being performed on stage is completely live, there’s no piped music or pit band.

What you see really is what you get. And what you get is just wonderful.

There’s a reason Buddy Holly’s music is still so popular after 65 years, It’s fun and romantic with such a ubiquitous 50’s sound whether more pop, Rock ‘n’ Roll or ballad.

So the cast have something great to work with but they perform it so well.

Christopher Weeks as Buddy was engaging and kooky but also turned into a star when it came to performing, handling the distinct vocal style with ease but Joe Butcher as Joe B Maudlin really stole the show with his ‘Bassography’. I don’t know if that’s a word but it’s the only way to describe how fun it was to watch him throw his double bass about, playing it upside down, balancing on it, holding it whist Buddy stood on it playing his guitar.

It really was a performance for the audience.

There was so much music to enjoy it’s hard to pull out the highlights but Miguel Angel, Samuelle Durojaiye and Laura-Dene Perryman all deserve a mention for their multiple roles.

Sitting there surrounded by theatregoers wearing silly paper glasses (given to us on the way in), it was interesting to think that Buddy Holly had actually performed on that stage on the 3rd March 1958 when the Mayflower was called The Gaumont – I wondered if any of those in the surrounding seats had been to that previous show?

The careers of Buddy, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper were cut short by tragedy, famously referred to as ‘the day the music died’ in the 1971 Don McLean hit American Pie, and sadly it would be impossible to tell their stories without referring to this event.

However, it is done respectfully and, without giving away spoilers, it’s not quite the end of the show.

I cried, but then I danced to celebrate the musical legacies these young performers – Buddy 22, The Big Bopper 18 and Ritchie Valens just 17 years old – have left behind for us to treasure for decades.

Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story runs until Saturday 24 June, tickets are on sale at or 02380 711811.

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