★★★★ | The Buddy Holly Story – Sheffield Lyceum and National Tour
In this rock ‘n’ roll spectacular, the greatest hits of Holly’s all to short career are featured, including Rave On, Peggy Sue, Heartbeat, Every day, Raining in My Heart and True Love Ways and it was wholly refreshing to see a show based on the songs of one artist which wasn’t just a run of the mill jukebox musical, as the songs actually formed part of the story as opposed to just being shoehorned into a flimsy narrative. Pleasingly, the show focussed generally on the more upbeat numbers, as opposed to the slower ballads, which gave the show a real energy.
The actors and musicians were wholly impressive, with a relatively small cast filling out a number of roles. Their musical ability was second to none, with many of the performers playing a number of musical instruments and undertaking absolutely cracking renditions of the classic songs, all played live on stage. Glen Joseph, in the title role, really came to life in the musical numbers, especially in the latter half of the second act, when his confidence and talent shone through. Lydia Fraser sang spectacularly, and Will Pearce impressed as Ritchie Valens with his performance of La Bamba
In terms of its presentation, the show is very basic, with a largely static set and a lack of spectacular song and dance numbers. But the show is not so much about the visuals, but all about the music, and the onstage cast simply couldn’t be faulted in terms of their musical prowess. The first half of each act was narrative driven; and the latter half was more focussed on the musical performances. With the musical numbers performed either as scenes in the recording studio or as concert performances, the songs flowed naturally through the story and still sounded absolutely superb, despite them being written nearly 60 years ago. Those who are not so familiar with Holly’s music will be surprised at the number of songs they will recognise.
The show could have done with a slightly more dynamic set and staging, and the volume of the music far outweighed the vocals during some of the numbers, but those quibbles aside, the show was tremendously entertaining and infectious with the temptation to tap your feet and sing along proving absolutely impossible to resist. The whole theatre was up on their feet during the closing scenes and encore; and the standing ovation that the cast received was well deserved.
As a rock ‘n’ roll musical, Buddy is hard to beat.
Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story is currently playing at the Sheffield Lyceum until the 14th June (http://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/event/buddy-14/ ) before continuing on its national tour (http://www.buddythemusical.com/ )