After several food posts, I thought it was time to give my stomach a rest and see what else Belfast has to offer, and so the invite to see The Buddy Holly Story at the Grand Opera House could not have arrived at a better time.
As it was Valentine’s night, my plus one had to be the husband, and I didn’t need to ask him twice. Whilst I love music from a bygone era, a trait very much inherited from my mum, Keith is an old soul who I am convinced was born into the wrong musical generation. We both are fans of the Buddy Holly classics and were more than a little excited to see some of them belted out on the stage of the Grand Opera House.
When we arrived, the venue was already packed, and the atmosphere was charged. As the curtain lifted we were immediately immersed in the world of Buddy Holly and The Crickets as the band go rogue on a Country and Western Radio Station by playing their take on the then controversial Rock ‘n’ Roll. This pretty much sets the tone for the show: Buddy Holly forged a career doing things his way; from the songs he played and how he played them, to refusing to get rid of his glasses, in fact opting for thicker frames, because no one else wore them on stage. He really was not like anyone else of his time.
The Buddy Holly Story not only celebrates the birth of rock ‘n’ roll, but is a tale of romance, perseverance and tragedy, perfectly interlaced with humour and set against a backdrop of classic songs. As the story charts the life of Buddy Holly and The Crickets, from their first recording contract and their meteoric rise to stardom, to Buddy’s whirlwind wedding and the crossroads he faces in his career, the dynamic writing and electric performances kept me gripped from start to finish.
The highlight of the show for me of course had to be the musical performances. In addition to acting, the actors all sang and played their instruments live throughout the show. From the raucous ‘That’ll Be The Day’ to the charming ‘Everyday’, it was hard not to dance along in your seat. However, for myself and a lot of the audience, it was impossible to stay seated for the elctric performance of ‘Johnny B Goode’.
Alex Fobbester, who was tasked with the mammoth role of bringing Buddy Holly to life, really shone throughout. He managed to capture a progression to the character of Buddy. From his adrenaline fuelled performances, that were full of passion during the early days of recordings, to the flair and self-assured showmanship of his later performance, Fobbester wonderfully captured the evolution of Buddy the boy into Buddy Holly the star. The supporting cast were also phenomenal. From the exceptional comic timing of Celia Cruwys-Finnigan as ‘Vi Petty’, Thomas Mitchells as ‘Big Bopper’, Tom Sowinski as ‘Jackdaw’ and Matthew Quinn as ‘Hipockets Duncan’ to the fragility of Kerry Low as Buddy Holly’s wife ‘Maria Elena’, the pure energy of Jordan Cunningham as ‘ritchie Valens’, the pure sass of Miguel Angel as a Apollo performer, and the passion of Alex Tosh as ‘Norman Petty’, not to mention the fabulous Joe Butcher and Josh Haberfield as ‘Joe’ and ‘Jerry’ of The Crickets, this production was completely absorbing from all angles.
This Valentine’s I discovered a new love: The Buddy Holly Story and if you are a fan of man himself, live music or exceptional story telling, I can not recommend it enough. It made me smile, laugh, dance and even shed a tear.
The Buddy Holly Story runs at the Grand Opera House until 18 February, so catch it while.you can. For more information: https://www.goh.co.uk/