Tonight I attended Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story at the 5th Avenue Theatre. One day after returning from an extended vacation, I nearly decided not to go--what a mistake that would have been!
Buddy is based on the life of Buddy Holly, famed rock and roll pioneer who died tragically in a plane crash on tour with The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens in 1959. I was expecting a good show, considering the quality and familiarity of many Buddy Holly songs, but was skeptical of this recent example of the aptly dubbed "jukebox musical" which have left me less than satisfied in the past. Complete enjoyment of such musicals rely heavily on one's recognition and familiarity with the associated songs. Fortunately for Buddy, it would be a challenge to listen to any oldies radio station for an hour and not hear at least one tune used in the show.
Understandably, the quality of the performance depends heavily on the quality of the music and musicians. There was absolutely no disappointment. If you came expecting above-average cover band material as I did, you would be completely blown away. Every one of the actor/musicians was absolutely amazing. Combined with the excellent script and production yielded an unexpectedly outstanding overall performance. My only real complaint was that the majority of the second act became just a rock concert. It was as if the writers had a set lineup of songs they wanted to fit in, but ran out of story halfway through, so decided to write one scene and just throw everything else in it. I was momentarily disappointed by this, but was quickly re-energized by the once again amazing musical performance.
As for the ratings:
Music - 5 stars, without any reservations whatsoever.
Technical - 3 stars, good all-purpose sets and lighting, without interfering with the great music.
Cast - 4 stars, at least half the cast were obviously accomplished musicians in addition to being excellent actors. It's always nice to see musicians out of the pit and on the stage.
Script - 3 stars. Good avenue for telling the Buddy Holly story.
Overall - 4 stars. The 4 that's closer to 5, rather than closer to 3.
"Buddy" was a late substitution in the 5th Avenue's season lineup after the Broadway-bound "Cry-Baby" was delayed out to next season, and as such I think has suffered a bit in its promotion. Quite a few different ticket deals have been released in an apparent effort to fill seats after lackluster ticket sales thus far, but it should be a crime to have empty seats for this show. Its three-week run continues through March 4th, and I highly recommend finding some tickets if you have the chance.