Theatre Review: ‘Buddy’ at the Orchard Theatre


This is the best show I’ve seen at the Orchard Theatre this year.

It was the night the music lived. The Buddy Holly Story, one so tragically short – I hadn’t realised how short – of a young man from Lubbock, Texas, delighting fans worldwide and having a huge influence on everyone from Dylan to the Stones.

“When I was 16 or 17, I went to see Buddy Holly play and I was three feet away from him … and he LOOKED at me …” – Bob Dylan

Performing from the age of 15, Buddy’s devastatingly brief recording career spanned just 18 months before he was killed in a plane crash along with other talents Richie Valens and the Big Bopper, following a gig at the Surf Ballroom, Clear Lake in Iowa.

I owned an album, ‘Buddy Holly Lives’, released in 1978, and I remember listening to it, over and over but I have to admit, I’m not sure why I was so into rock’n’roll. Another favourite album was Juke Box Jive, with the likes of Bill Haley, Bobby Vee, Eddie Cochran – 40 All Time Rock’n’Roll Greats it says on the cover (it’s on ebay for £4.99). Mine is possibly in my loft, possibly left at my parents when I moved out.

But I’m a soul girl, disco was my thing back then, so why was I listening to all that old stuff? The Beatles (so named because of the Crickets being insects), the Stones, Bowie and the like I had no interest in at all and yet, it seems we had a shared love of the roots of rock’n’roll music that has traversed all genres.

“He passed it on via the Beatles and via us. He’s in everybody …This isn’t bad for a guy from Lubbock, Texas, right?” – Keith Richards, the Rolling Stones

Buddy is a bittersweet, emotional show that takes you through all the hits and leads you into a second half tinged with sadness as we head towards the end of his fleeting musical journey. He was just 22 years old. I’m still teary-eyed now, writing this.

I wasn’t even born before he died, and with the wealth of material produced, I’d assumed he must’ve been in his 40s and been around for years. Having made such an impact on me, I can understand how those who knew him, saw him live and lived in that era must feel the loss. Judging by the audience reaction, I’m not alone. That’s one hell of a legacy.

“Buddy Holly had been a very big early influence, particularly the way he looked, and I loved the look and sound of his Strat” – Eric Clapton

The show is also a funny, warm, pure musical delight, as we trace Buddy’s route from country through to rock’n’roll and a pivotal moment in music history, as Buddy Holly and the Crickets became the first big name white musicians to play the Apollo Club in Harlem, New York. Being mistaken for a black singer was a common occurrence for Buddy, with no internet or TV.

The musicians and singers are incredible, the atmosphere vibrant and electric – I cannot stress enough: GO AND SEE THIS SHOW.

“I can’t remember if I cried, When I read about his widowed bride. But something touched me deep inside. The day the music died.”  Don McLean – American Pie

It’s on at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford until Saturday, October 29. Full details can be found here

Getting there: The theatre is right opposite Dartford Station, 2 minutes walk across a footbridge. If driving, parking in the station car park is just £1.50 for the whole evening after 6pm.