Strand Theatre, London WC2
Opened 12 October, 1989 (Victoria Palace Theatre, London SW1); reviewed November, 2000

The enduring strength of one of the first compilation pop musicals is that it hits the right balance between the story and the songs.

Many such shows are hung on slender threads of narrative. Some go the other way (Roy Orbison's life story, told a few years ago in Only The Lonely, was more suited to Wagner than to his own songs!). But in the life and work of Buddy Holly, creative team Alan Janes and Rob Bettinson have an optimum mix of event and music. Nevertheless, they play it safe to the extent of ending each half of the show with an extended concert sequence.

Another big plus is that there is no "backing band", whether on stage or in the pit: the musicians you're watching are the only ones playing, and they reproduce the sound of the originals expertly. Angus MacGregor is remarkable as Buddy, backed energetically on stand-up bass by Matthew Rutherford as Cricket Joe Mauldin and by James Hadden, who may not have drummer Jerry Allison's legendary wrist action but has his sound down pat. Of course it trades on nostalgia and the feel-good factor, but not shamefully so, and the care taken pays off.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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