Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story

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The Buddy Holly Story
Original Cast Recording
Music Various Artists
Lyrics Various Artists
Book Alan Janes
Productions 1989 West End
1990 Broadway
2007 West End Revival

Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story is a jukebox musical in two acts with a book written by Alan Janes, and music and lyrics by a variety of songwriters. Based on the life and career of early rock and roller Buddy Holly, the musical hews closer to Holly's actual life story than the 1978 film version. One of the first so-called "jukebox musicals," the show consists mostly of the songs of Holly and other early rockers.

The musical was conceived by the theatrical agent from Birmingham, Laurie Mansfield, who pitched the idea to film producer Greg Smith and writer Alan Janes in 1988. Paul Elliot, a West End producer took on the project, and support from Paul McCartney (who owned the copyrights to Holly's music and objected to inaccuracies in the movie) ensured the show's creation. Opening in 1989, the musical initially ran in London's West End for over 12 years, and also had a brief Broadway production, with numerous subsequent tours and productions continuing to run around the world.


Early productions

The West End production, with Paul Hipp as Holly, directed by Rob Bettinson and with Paul Jury as Musical Director, opened on 12 October 1989, at the Victoria Palace Theatre, where it remained for six years before transferring to the Strand Theatre.[1] It ran for another six years and five months for a total of more than 5,000 performances until 3 March 2002, making it one of the longest-running musicals in London history. Later in the run, Chip Esten played Holly.

Two London cast albums were released, an original cast recording in 1989, and a live recording made during a performance at the Strand Theatre in 1995. Both were released on the First Night label.[2]

After a Toronto tryout and 15 previews, the Broadway production, also directed by Bettinson and starring Hipp, opened on November 4, 1990, at the Shubert Theatre, where it ran for 225 performances. Jill Hennessy played a number of roles, including Holly's wife María Elena.

Subsequent productions
The cast of Buddy in Pacific Repertory Theatre's San Francisco production

The show has also toured extensively throughout the UK and U.S.A., as well as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Holland, Finland, Ireland, Japan, and Singapore.[3] A 27-city U.S. tour was mounted in 2000, and tours were mounted in the UK in 2006, 2007, 2008/9, and 2011.[4] In 2013/4 a 25th Anniversary tour commenced in the UK [5]

A U.S. West Coast production, directed by Stephen Moorer and starring Travis Poelle, opened on June 6, 2003, at the Golden Bough Playhouse in Carmel, California, moving to San Jose on August 13, playing at the San Jose Stage. The success of the production led to a revival, beginning on June 8, 2004, at the Post St. Theatre in San Francisco, garnering positive reviews[6] and Bay Area Critics' awards for Best Musical, Best Ensemble, and Best Actor in a Musical (Travis Poelle).[7] María Elena Holly attended the show at each location, dancing onstage with the cast at curtain call.[8] This production later returned to Carmel for several runs, most recently in 2008.

The West End London revival opened on August 3, 2007, at The Duchess Theatre where it ran until 7 February 2009 ensuring that the 50th Anniversary of Holly's death was honoured on 3 February with a special performance incorporating several new numbers for that one night. This version, directed again by Rob Bettinson, is scaled down from its previous incarnations, and the role of Buddy Holly was equally shared by Dean Elliott and Matthew Wycliffe, who played the role in the 2007 UK touring company.[9] Ritchie Valens was played by Puerto Rican actor Miguel Angel, and J.P. Richardson (aka The Big Bopper) by actor Lee Ormsby. The 50th Anniversary Tour played concurrently across the UK and starred Oliver Seymour-Marsh and Glen Joseph as Buddy, with Chris Redmond and Dan Graham as the Crickets.

Wycliffe and Elliott later reprised their role as Buddy in Lubbock - Buddy Holly's hometown - in 2009, in a production staged by Lubbock Moonlight Musicals.[10]

To commemorate 50 years since the Day the Music Died, an Australian tour was also mounted, opening at Star City's Lyric Theatre in Sydney on February 3, 2009, and starring Scott Cameron as Buddy, Luke Tonkin as The Big Bopper and Flip Simmons as Ritchie Valens. In attendance at the opening night were Bob Montgomery and Peggy Sue Gerron.

The first UK fringe production Upstairs at The Gatehouse was produced by Ovation Theatres in spring 2010, featuring Roger Rowley as Buddy Holly (who went on to share the lead role on two official UK tours), having first played the role for Leeds based theatre company, BrassNeck Theatre) and Jos Slovick (Spring Awakening) as Ritchie Valens.

"Buddy", as the show is often abbreviated to, has recently concluded a 2013/14 tour of the United Kingdom, branded The 25th Anniversary Tour, with Buddy being played by both Roger Rowley and Glen Joseph, with Jason Blackwater as the Big Bopper and Will Pearce as Ritchie Valens.[11]

The 2016/17 UK tour starts in September, opening at The Harlow Playhouse.



Buddy (Travis Poelle, center) and the Crickets (Luke Darnell and David Shultz) in Pacific Repertory Theatre's production at the Golden Bough Playhouse, Carmel, CA, 2009
Act I

In the mid 1950s, in Lubbock, Texas, 19-year-old Buddy Holly is an up-and-coming country music singer. He and his two friends, Joe and Jerry (The Crickets), want to experiment with the new and controversial style of music called rock 'n roll. They struggle for a time in Texas and then in Nashville, where producers want Buddy to record country and western music, ignoring Buddy's pleas to "do it his way". The escalating argument almost results in a fist fight between Buddy and the Decca producer, thus ending Buddy's Decca relationship. Hipockets Duncan, a local DJ and friend of Buddy's, knowing that Buddy is frustrated, puts him in contact with an up-and-coming Producer who will let him play "his music, his way."

A contract with pioneering record producer Norman Petty results in a string of hits, including the 1957 hits "That'll Be the Day" and "Peggy Sue" (the latter a last-minute change of title from "Cindy Lou" at the behest of the group's drummer). The group then appears at the Apollo Theater in Harlem (where theater musicians and audience are mistakenly expecting a black group), resulting in The Crickets being the first white group to perform there, where they are enthusiastically received.

Act II

Following these successes, The Crickets begin to record in New York City, where Buddy meets and impulsively marries Puerto Rican record publisher receptionist Maria Elena Santiago.

After a break-up with the Crickets in 1958, Buddy starts a solo career, leading to his being signed as one of the headliners on the 1959 "Winter Dance Party". Fed up with the terrible Midwestern weather and tired of traveling by tour bus, 22-year-old Holly breaks a promise to his pregnant wife not to fly. Following a February 2, 1959 concert at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, he and two other stars (J. P. Richardson "the Big Bopper" and young Ritchie Valens (a last minute replacement for a Crickets band musician, the young Waylon Jennings, because Richardson was ill with a bad cold), depart on a small plane during a blizzard, a fateful decision that places them in musical history books in an unexpected and tragic way as the plane crashes and they all die.

Song list[edit]

Cast list[edit]

West End Revival

  • Buddy Holly - Matthew Wycliffe
  • Buddy Holly - Dean Elliott
  • Joe B Mauldin - Greg Last
  • Jerry Allison - Nick Sayce
  • HiPockets Duncan - Mike Lloyd
  • Norman Petty - Sean Needham
  • Vi Petty - Kerry James
  • The Big Bopper & Decca Producer - Lee Ormsby
  • Ritchie Valens - Miguel Angel
  • Murray Deutch & Clearlake MC - Gavin Barnes
  • Apollo DJ - Chris Grahamson
  • Mary Lou Sokoloff & Shirley - Wendy Paver
  • Apollo Performer - Hayley Berkeley
  • Musician - John Banister
  • Swing - Joanna Heap

Awards and Nominations[edit]

London Production

  • Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical 1991 (nominee)
  • Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Performance of the Year by an Actor in a Musical 1991 (Hipp, nominee)
  • Manchester Evening News Best Actor in a Musical and Best Touring Musical (nominees) 1992
  • What's On Stage Theatregoers Awards Best Musical Revival 2008 (nominee)

Broadway Production



External links[edit]