Buddy @ The Mayflower, Southampton

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I have a confession. I have an issue with the concept of the ‘jukebox musical’. I find the concept frustrating and lazy, I dislike that they have at various times dominated the West End, in short I’m a bit of a snob about them. You can understand my confusion then when I tell you that Buddy is among the most fun experiences I’ve had in the theatre!

To be fair, I don’t really tend to think of Buddy as a jukebox show, it has a plot for a start, but it gets tarred with the same brush as We Will Rock You and the like.

Buddy Holly’s story is well known. Rising from obscurity to become one of the most influential artists in the burgeoning rock & roll movement before dying in a plane crash aged 22, his ingenuity and knack for a tune still looms large over music today and even if you don’t go in expecting to know the tunes here I can almost guarantee that they will be very familiar to you.

Presenting Buddy’s story from the time he signs his first contract until the night of his untimely passing, Buddy zips along with reckless abandon, skimming over details so as to ensure the story stays coherent.

In the lead role Glen Joseph shines, perfectly capturing Buddy’s small town “aw, shucks” persona without losing the inner steel that allowed him to keep fighting for his chance to shine. Joseph, like the rest of the cast, is both performer and band member, ably picking out the tunes with Holly’s signature Stratocaster sound.

The larger than life Big Bopper is the ideal role for Jason Blackwater who masters both the strut and the wide grin and belting out Chantilly Lace with reckless abandon. Lydia Fraser and Miguel Angel’s Apollo theatre performers add a wry humour to events and Vivienne Smith provides the heart as Holly’s wife Maria Elena. Her accent may be a little suspect but she captures Maria’s steadfast support for her husband perfectly.

Despite the tragic ending that we all know is coming (and that the show deals with tastefully and without fanfare), this is a feel good show through and through. I defy anyone to make it to the end without singing along once or twice and quite possibly dancing in the aisles!

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Matt

Matt has been writing on all manner of subjects for over 15 years. He has written for a number of music magazines, made appearances on BBC Introducing and regularly contributed to local newspapers. These days he mostly writes about theatre, but also enjoys covering sport, especially rugby.

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