PLYMOUTH HERALD (4th September, 2019): BUDDY SHOW STILL ROCKING AND ROLLING 30 YEARS ON
“BUDDY’S back to where it all began. This week the show has returned to its ‘spiritual home’ for the launch of the celebratory 30th anniversary tour.
“After walking across a red carpet to the theatre’s foyer, Monday’s opening night audience was handed cardboard ‘Buddy Holly glasses’ to set the mood for a show about a rock and roller whose visual signature was his statement spectacles.
“With curtain-up came the same dynamic stage experience that destined this show to be the hit it became when premiered in Plymouth back in 1989 – prior to wowing the West End.
“Part biographical story, part rock and roll concert, the musical phenomenon has lost none of its upbeat polish and impact over the intervening three decades. This latest production has a few changes. The omission of the fallout between Buddy and the Crickets being one, and the neat addition of a narrative link between some of the scenes being another.
“AJ Jenks and Christopher Weeks alternate between shows in the demanding role of Buddy Holly – with Jenks powering through Monday’s performance. Here is an affable, yet musically rebellious Buddy abandoning the accepted Country and Western sound to establish himself as one of rock and roll’s most enduring pioneers. Coming from a different era of studio recording and radio play across small independent stations, Buddy’s face was less known than a rising star in today’s world of instant recognition. The palpable sense of tension and relief of this white group as they go down a storm in New York’s Apollo Theatre, Harlem, famous for its African-American entertainers, is an electrifying climax to the first act.
“As the DJ that gives Buddy his first break, Harry Boyd is an excellent Hipockets Duncan… (and) convincing as influential record producer Norman Petty, New York music mogul and MC at the Surf Ballroom.
“While a blizzard blows outside, inside with its cast of legendary rock and rollers, the final concert is in full swing. Arcing enough energy to blow the national grid The Big Bopper (Joshua Barton), Ritchie Valens (Ben Pryer) and Buddy Holly rock through ‘Chantilly Lace’, ‘La Bamba’ and ‘Real Wild Child’. The tempo slows for ‘Raining In My Heart’, laced with the honeyed notes of a fluid sax, before cranking up for a blistering rendition of ‘Rave On’. What a show. It sure is good to have Buddy back in town.”
YOUR HARLOW (29th August, 2019): BUDDY AT THE HARLOW PLAYHOUSE: KEEPING THE MUSIC ALIVE!
“There are standing ovations and there are standing ovations. The standing ovation the audience gave at the end of the Wednesday night’s performance of Buddy was one of warmth, wild enthusiasm and gratitude… February 3rd, 1959 might have been the day the music died – but August 28th, 2019 proved to every single person on their feet that the legacy lives on.
“This production is about to go on a UK tour to celebrate 30 years of The Buddy Holly Story and has the music at its core… This (production) knows what the audience wants and delivers it in spades.
“Buddy, played by AJ Jenks is an understated Buddy, in keeping with an accurate depiction of the man. In many ways, he lets the music do the talking... This is very much an ensemble/team piece with every actor devoted to making sure that this 30th anniversary production is not just faithful but faultless. It doesn’t need to overstate the key moments: the lyrics to ‘Peggy Sue’, meeting Maria Elena, playing the Apollo in Harlem. Each part is played naturally and affectionately.
“Even though this was the first night (and a preview night at that), each actor looked like they really enjoyed being on the stage and enjoyed being part of this legacy. The sets were very effective, especially the early pieces, the Apollo and The Surf Ballroom.
“The Surf Ballroom finale… got the audience on their feet. It was a tumultuous celebration of the last show Buddy and The Crickets plus Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens did. If you only came for the last 20 minutes, then you would have got value for money.
“People of all ages were at the show and quite rightly. Musicians of all ages are still influenced by this music. To many, Buddy was one of the original punks, shaking up the music scene.
“You left the Harlow Playhouse thinking about all those songs and he was just 22 when he left us. The 30th anniversary tour of Buddy is a wonderful celebration of his music… This was a production where every person, on and off stage, gave everything to keep the music and legacy of Buddy Holly alive. Rave on!”