Review: Buddy @ The Regent

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The Regent Theatre kicked off their 2020 season with the much-anticipated 30th Anniversary tour of the blockbuster musical Buddy – the story of legendary rock star Buddy Holly. In a nutshell, the anticipation was well worth the wait as the packed audience was blown away by powerful performances from all involved.

The play is a whistle-stop tour of the eighteen-month career of Holly – who could have been one of the all time greats of country music had that pesky rock and roll not intervened – and takes him from his musical roots in Lubbock, Texas and early rejection to the poignant final concert in the Surf Ballroom, Clear Lake, Iowa.

The action largely hinges around two concerts. The first is set in the Apollo Theatre, Harlem where Buddy and the Crickets – as the only white faces in the building – have to win over an audience and their sceptical co-performers. The acrobatic and energetic performance provides a rousing end to the First Act.

The second Act is built around the ill-fated and badly organised tour that had its tragic climax in Clear Lake. Once again, the cast give an excellent presentation of rock stars at the top of their musical game.

With so much music to cram in there is little time to study the characters in depth but the audience may still learn a few unknown facts about the rock legend. By the end of the production they will have discovered how Peggy Sue got its title, how the distinctive sound of Everyday was created and the origin of those distinctive glasses.

We are whisked through the details of Holly’s early career and his whirlwind romance with Maria Elena through Harry Boyd who does a good job as the narrator as he plays a variety of DJs and concert comperes.

Joshua Barton plays the larger-than-life Big Bopper to perfection and Ben Pryer does a very good impersonation of Ritchie Valens – the seventeen-year old who lost his life after “winning” the final seat on the plane through the toss of a coin. Miguel Angel also did a great performance of Reet Petite

All of the cast showcase their own individual musical and singing talents but the undoubted star of the show is A J Jenks who plays the title role. His musical and singing talents had the audience in the palm of his hands. There was energy, athleticism and, above all, believability about his performance. Even the most devoted Holly fan must have been impressed by this depiction of their idol.

There is humour and audience participation in abundance and the transition from a raucous concert performance to the poignant announcement of the plane crash was beautifully handled. But the real sadness was that the performance had to end. All members of the audience were on their feet demanding more with resounding applause.

John Lennon famously said that Holly made it okay to wear glasses. He also made it acceptable to love rock ‘n’ roll and this show contained all of his big hits – all beautifully recreated.

Whether a first-time audience member or someone returning for another taste of the Fifties Buddy has a freshness and vitality that appeals to all ages and the 2 hours 30 minutes including interval flies by. This is unmissable feel-good theatre at its best. You’d be buddy stupid to let it pass you by.

The performance continues until February 22nd. For information contact 08448717649 or atgtickets.com/stoke