Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story – Review – Bradford Alhambra Theatre

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By Christine Goode

Are you ready for the one of the best nights you will ever have at the theatre? This fun-filled upbeat jukebox musical is waiting to transport you back to the 50’s when rock and roll was born.

The Buddy Holly Story tells the true tale of Buddy Holly and his meteoric rise to fame with his band The Crickets. From his first hit in 1957 with the hit song, ‘That’ll Be the Day’, until he was tragically killed in an airplane crash in Clear Lake Iowa at the tender age of 22 in 1959, along with fellow performers, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens.

It is hard to believe that despite Holly’s short career he still produced so many memorable hits. The show features over 20 of his best-known classics such as; ‘Peggy Sue’, ‘Everyday’, ‘Oh Boy’ and ‘True Love Ways’, to name just a few of my personal favourites.

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image: Hamish Gill


Writer and producer Alan Janes has created a great script focusing on the early days of Holly’s career. We all know the sad ending and I had my tissues at the ready; however there was just a simple yet dignified scene with a lone guitar signalling the fateful ‘day the music died’. The sets are uncomplicated, and the choreography is limited with the focus on the band and its rise to fame. The main component here is music and there is no need for an extravagant set thanks to the talented performers.

The cast have our attention from the beginning as Thomas Mitchells (Hipockets Duncan) combines effortlessly multiple characters, by simply changing his coat and hat as he walks across the stage commanding our gaze as he drifts from characterising at least three different record producers.

AJ Jenks (Buddy Holly), an accomplished musician in his own right, accurately combines the sound, look and charisma of Holly. Joe Butcher (Joe B Mauldin) does not just play the double bass, he literally dances with it during ‘Oh Boy’ – it is incredible to watch.

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image: Hamish Gill

“Sharp suits”

Samuelle Durojaiye (Marlena Madison) and Laura -Dene Perryman (Chantel Williams) both have superb voices and their partnership is boisterous. Christopher Chandler (The Big Bopper) brings Bopper’s larger-than-life character to the fore, with his loud leopard print jacket and gold telephone, and his even louder booming voice. He has us all singing and clapping along to ‘Chantilly Lac’e, with lots of audience participation too. The party keeps going as Miguel Angel (Richie Valens) belts out hit song ‘La Bamba’ – with his saucy shake of the hips and shimmying shoulders we can’t help but join in.

There are many Buddy Holly fans here, some in swing dresses or sharp suits with the classic 50s hair styles replicating the costumes on stage, and we are all singing along. I look around and everyone knows every single lyric either because it was their era, or like me, we heard our parents play his music and these hit songs are still in heavy rotation today.

Everyone is having a ball, clapping and shouting for more. A standing ovation is rightfully earned and leads us into a rocking rendition of ‘Johnny B Goode’. The house lights go up and people are still singing and dancing long after the show has finished. For lovers of classic rock n roll, this show is a must.

‘Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story’ is at Bradford Alhambra Theatre until 17rh June 2023
Top image: Rebecca Need-Menear


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