Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story

Newcastle Theatre Royal – 29th August 2023

The beautiful Theatre Royal in Newcastle is playing host to the ultimate tribute this week with a stellar cast of performers and musicians in Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story which has thrilled audiences since its debut in London on 12th October 1989 and based on tonight’s performance I can certainly see why. 

Set over the period of eighteen months when Buddy Holly found fame, wrote prolifically some of the eras most memorable music to his untimely death at the tender age of only 24 years in a plane crash the story is told effectively but largely superfluously to the magnificent performances of his extensive collection of hit music. 

Tonight, the role of the eponymous was played wonderfully by the very talented Christopher Weeks and he oozed charm and captured the country boy’s naivety and raw talent to perfection. The role is shared with weeks by A J Jenks who I have no doubt is just as good in the role. 

The Buddies are joined by a magnificent ensemble of extremely talented actors/musicians playing Holly’s original band – The Crickets and other notable characters including the equally ill-fated Richie Valens (Miguel Angel) and JP ‘The Big Bopper’ Richardson (Christopher Chandler) and Holly’s wife Maria Elena (Daniella Agredo Piper.) 

The set and look of the production are very effective and designer and lighting designers Adrian Rees and Darren Copeland have done an amazing job bringing the feel of the period to the stage. The second half in particular, which is effectively a reimagining of Holly’s final performance, really draws the audience in and gives them an experience of being at The Surf Ballroom, Clearlake, Iowa, and the inevitable conclusion of the production is handled very deftly and respectfully. 

The direction by Matt Salisbury is excellent allowing the action to flow almost seamlessly and the sound design by Pete Cox is excellent. Every single person in this cast plays their roles expertly but a special mention has to go to Thomas Mitchell who starts off as de-facto narrator, DJ Hipockets Duncan from Holly’s home town and then plays just about every random character that Holly meets thereafter. It is quite something to watch. Another special mention goes to a cameo by Music Captain, Ewan Ling who is the sole male member of an interval barbershop quartet performance in the second half and is worth looking out for as his cheeky role steals this particular part of the show. 

This production is for everyone who loves the timeless songs from the very short-lived career of Buddy Holly and all the many nods to the other classic tunes of the era. While this could be described as a jukebox musical or even a glorified tribute act there is something about this production that made my heart soar. It does not bog itself down getting tooschmaltzy with the story or going on flights of imaginative fancy in the retelling. The story itself is linear and, on the faceof it, very factual. This production is about the music and the cast and creatives and all the technical team have produced something that is enjoyable, uplifting, heartfelt and touching while showcasing some wonderful tunes from the infancy through the golden age of rock and roll. It is not to be missed.

Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story plays Newcastle Theatre Royal until Sat 3 Sep 2023. Tickets can be purchased at www.theatreroyal.co.uk or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.

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