Monday, 17 August 2009

FESTIVAL REVIEW: BUDDY: THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY * * *


Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story! * * *
Sweet ECA, Venue 186
9-13 Aug 16.40
14-15 Aug 12.30

Buddy's pretty solid but as for Sweet ECA, that'll be the day. The show, adapted from the West End musical, begins with a hitch or three as the opening scene featuring the KDAV Sunday Party, where Buddy and the Crickets are said to have been first aired, has to stop and start over due to sudden venue blackouts: a technicality that the gang gracefully ignore for as long as they can before we're left to sit in darkness, however enjoying the sounds of Johnny Cash and Jimmy Swan.

When it finally kicks off, it becomes obvious that the audience has a vital part in the show as we're flashed the 'silence' signs when appropriate, then cheers go wild when Buddy takes the stage, surrounded by girls in gorgeous, authentic 50s floral frocks. In an hour and a half of summing up the celebrated and short life of a legend, the story highlights Buddy's insistence on recording That'll be the Day (as opposed to the preferred country tunes of those days), the revelation and joyful simplicity of Everyday, the death-fearing but successful Apollo appearance, meeting his future wife (for whom he wrote True Love Ways) and the tour with Richie Valens and JP 'The Big Bopper' Richardson that would also be the demise of all three men.

It's a rich show with a stage full of talented actors and musicians, both vocally and instrumentally, where a good two dozen songs at least, are performed. As a southern American, I am impressed by the put-on southern accents and would only advise against phrases like 'Cheers, Buddy' as this is not at all an Americanism. Buddy's very lovable but could have had much more volume on his mic so we could better hear and discern his take on the late great's hiccup-style vocals.

The shining star is the stand up bass man, who endlessly entertains with a gazillion impressive manoeuvres including standing on top of, sliding beneath and exalting overhead the life-sized instrument: very rock and roll. Far less amusing is Richie Valen's performance. As a 50s enthusiast, I am pretty sure that Valens was not a male stripper yet this kid's portrayal implies as much. I am in constant fear of having my eye poked out by his extremely well-outlined penis, which is grossly thrust in my face repeatedly. I hate to think of the trauma bestowed upon the sweet grannies in front of me.

Sans the rudeness and technical difficulties, it's a colourful performance by the Viva Touring Company and a fun way to remember a remarkable man.

Also published here in edfestmag.com

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