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Review: Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford

Rock n Roll was still a music feared by some when Buddy Holly died in a plane crash in February 1959.

There’s little doubt that he was one of the pioneers of the scene and was a direct influence to bands to come including The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones.

In less then two years Buddy Holly’s life would be transformed and then be cut suddenly short.

From performing country music with Decca, being dropped from the label, to getting another record deal to sing and play what he wanted, Buddy would get married, see his band split up, become an expectant father and lose his life in a plane crash.

It is these events in such a short space of time that are covered in The Buddy Holly Story which is running at Dartford’s Orchard Theatre until Saturday (July 26).

Glen Joseph as Buddy Holly
Glen Joseph as Buddy Holly

A mixture of live performances of hits including Oh Boy, That’ll Be the Day, Heartbeat, Words of Love, Peggy Sue, and Maybe Baby, the action starts with Buddy at his home in Lubbock, Texas.

We then follow him to recording his first hits at Norvajak Studios in New Mexico and a cleverly staged scene of him winning over an all-black audience at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem.

The audience witness the whirlwind romance between Buddy and his wife Maria Elena and his final performance at the Surf Ballroom in Iowa.

While his death was a tragedy, it is how he has influenced generations and been remembered now (this is the 25th anniversary of this show) that the audience are left with.

Joined on stage by the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens (who also perished in the crash) the trio rock out hits including La Mamba, Chantilly Lace and Johnny B Goode.

It is difficult to imagine these songs are over 50 years old but there was no doubt they still resonated with an audience who were singing, clapping and dancing in the aisles.

This was in part thanks to the vigour of the performers (particularly Buddy himself performed by Glen Joseph) who interact with the crowd like a real gig and are imbued with an unrelenting energy on the stage which was absorbed by the packed house at Monday’s opening performance.

The heat of the theatre cropped up one or two times of course, particularly as the final acts include lines about it "blowing a blizzard out there".

The irony wasn't lost on the audience or the performers and I'm still crying, waiting and hoping that the Orchard gets some air conditioning soon.

Don McLean sang about the day the music died, but this show proves Buddy Holly’s musical legend lives on.

Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story was the first musical of its kind, spawning a new breed of jukebox shows, including the likes of Mamma Mia! and We Will Rock You. It opened in the West End in 1989 and is still touring today.

Visitors can also fill up in the Orchard Theatre's restaurant ahead of the show.
Visitors can also fill up in the Orchard Theatre's restaurant ahead of the show.

Ahead of the show you can also dine at the restaurant which offers a range of foods including honey roast duck breast, salmon and pan-roasted chicken breast.

I gorged on an Atlantic prawn, mango and avocado cocktail with a lime sauce and country bloomer, followed by a 6oz lamb and mint burger in a brioche bun with onion rings and triple cooked chips, ending with a chocolate mousse filled with caramel and whipped cream.

Oh boy.

For tickets visit www.orchardtheatre.co.uk or call 01322 220000.

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