JOYCE MCMILLAN on BUDDY – THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY at the King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, for The Scotsman 15.2.14.
4 stars ****
BY A STRANGE COINCIDENCE, this British touring production of Alan Janes’s Buddy Holly tribute show rolled into Edinburgh almost 55 years to the day after Buddy Holly’s fateful last concert at Clear Lake, Iowa, in February 1959. Perhaps that’s why the first-night audience included so many older fans who still remember how February made them shiver, that year. Or perhaps they were drawn into the theatre by high reputation of this well-loved show about Holly’s short life as a professional musician – which lasted barely two years, before his death in a plane crash on that snowy night in Iowa – and of its star Glen Joseph, who gives a passionate and well-observed central performance as the shy boy from Lubbock, Texas, who tranformed the world of popular music forever.
Alan Janes’s script doesn’t avoid some of the tougher issues that haunted those years; in particular, it focusses in broad but effective brush-strokes on the everyday racism of a society where Holly’s music was considered “too black” by some producers, and where he was sneered at for marrying a Hispanic girl. In the end, though, the heart of the show lies in the music, the 24 terrific songs delivered with explosive energy and skill by an all-singing, all-dancing, all-instrument-playing cast of eight. It’s difficult, at this distance, to recapture the excitement that swept the world when 1950’s teenagers first heard the sound of Peggy Sue or That’ll Be The Day; but to watch this company capture the moment when the Crickets first stopped playing country & western, and began to Rip It Up, is about as close as any citizen of the 21st century is likely to get.