Buddy, The Buddy Holly Story
Presented by: Live Theatre Productions

Venue: The Palms at Crown
Reviewer: Simon Parris
Date Reviewed: Friday 26th June, 2009

 


 

More than fifteen years after the original Australian staging, Buddy is back to entertain new generations of fans. The Palms at Crown is an ideal venue for the return Melbourne season of The Buddy Holly Story, with the climactic act one and two concert scenes suiting the space perfectly.

Similar musical biographies have subjects whose careers spanned decades, so it is incredible to think that Buddy Holly achieved so much success across only three years. His catalog is an embarrassment of riches for the writers of this show. All his hit songs, such as That’ll Be The Day, Peggy Sue, Everyday, Oh Boy and Rave On, are featured in the show as well as those of his contemporaries Ritchie Valens (La Bamba) and J. P. ‘The Big Bopper’ Richardson (Chantilly Lace).

Holly (Scott Cameron) breaks free of the shackles of the country and western sound to trailblaze into the burgeoning new world of rock’n’roll. Producer Norman Petty (Gerard Carroll) sets Buddy Holly and the Crickets on the path to massive success. Sounding so much like a ‘coloured’ band, the appearance of the lily-white Crickets shocks the proprietors of Harlem’s Apollo Theatre. Holly meets and marries Maria Elena (Laura Bunting), splits from the Crickets and joins Valens (Flip Simmons) and Richardson (Luke Tonkin) on tour.

On 3rd February 1959, a plane crash took the lives Holly, Valens and Richardson. Despite being ‘the day the music died’, the music still lives on through this energetic, enjoyable show. It is a toe-tapping smorgasbord of hits that frequently has the audience clapping along.

Cameron is a sensational young talent, perfectly cast as Holly. Apart from the uncanny physical resemblance, he is an absolutely brilliant guitarist and his playing is one of the main reasons to see the show. Cameron brings out the drive and youthful exuberance of Holly and yet delivers his lines in an understated, subtle manner. He is also a natural singer who delivers song after song with apparent ease. Cameron, already a ‘veteran’ performer at 22, clearly has a long and successful career ahead.

With only four brief, but significant, scenes, Bunting makes a strong impression as the passionate Maria Elena and brings great dignity to the role. Ballarat’s Tonkin is a hoot as the Big Bopper. Simmons plays the crowd for all he’s worth as Valens. James Nation-Ingle (Joe, on double bass) and Simon Bentley (Jerry, on drums) lend great support as the Crickets, and, as with Cameron, prove themselves to be accomplished musicians. The entire cast appear to be having a ball and are all used to great effect in the Clear Lake concert.

Set in front of a giant concertina collage of pop art, the show, as designed by Christopher Smith, flows smoothly with set pieces gliding in and out as needed. Musical Director Peter Laughton has created an authentic sound from his all-singing/all-playing cast. Director Craig Ilott has the done the best he can with the leaden book. Fortunately, all is forgiven in the fantastic final 35-minute concert scene, which leaves the audience on their feet wanting more.

Buddy will be rocking the Palms at Crown until 9th August. Bookings are through Ticketek http://premier.ticketek.com.au/


 

Simon has appeared in about 40 productions over the past thirty years. Recent roles include Uncle Henry/Guard of the Gate in The Wizard of Oz (Catchment) and Eugene Fodor in Crazy for You (Whitehorse). Other favourite roles include Mr Fox in Mack and Mabel, Max in The Sound of Music, Freddy in My Fair Lady, Julio in Paint Your Wagon, Marcellus in The Music Man and Grantaire in Les Miserables.

 

Simon has directed several school productions. Recently he choreographed Urinetown and Little Shop of Horrors for St Michael’s Grammar School. He is currently directing Hot Mikado for St Michael’s, to be staged at the Athenaeum Theatre in May.

 

Simon has served on the Music Theatre Guild of Victoria Committee for five years, and is currently Treasurer. He is also a keen audience member, having seen over 50 shows in five weeks on a recent trip to New York and London.

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