REVIEW: Buddy Holly and the Cricketers at the Georgian Theatre Royal

On February 3, 1959 American rock ‘n’ roll musicians Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and JP Richardson (otherwise known as The Big Bopper) were killed in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa.

The tragic event later became known as The Day the Music Died after fellow American singer Don McLean referred to it as such in his 1971 song American Pie.

But thankfully the music has not died and 60 years later the songs of all three artists were very much alive and kicking at a show that brought an entire audience to its feet – clapping, stamping and dancing in the aisles. And this was no mean feat given that the compact Georgian Theatre Royal was totally packed out with not a seat to spare.

Buddy Holly and the Cricketers is more than just a tribute band. They are a very class act in their own right and ‘Oh Boy’ these lads can certainly play. A quick look at their performance credentials bears this out and their combined West End credits include Buddy, Lennon, Forbidden Planet and Jailhouse Rock. As well as wonderful musicianship, their energetic performances were delivered with a charm and humour that would undoubtedly have made the original artists proud.

The show itself was satisfyingly fast-paced, delivering hit after hit to a highly appreciative audience – That’ll Be the Day, Peggy Sue, Heartbeat, It doesn’t Matter Anymore and Raining In My Heart to name but a few. The start of the second half hit the right note for a post-interval audience with a ringing telephone followed by the appearance of The Big Bopper and a superb rendition of the all-time favourite Chantilly Lace.

Other artists from the era were also featured, including a splendidly foot-stomping version of Jerry Lee Lewis’s Great Balls of Fire. However, perhaps the highlight of the show came right at the end with an original encore arrangement combining some of Buddy’s greatest hits. The audience loved it and a particular mention goes to Nick Player who performed amazing acrobatics with his original Engelhardt Swing-master upright bass.

When the band appeared on BBC1’s Saturday night live programme, The One and Only, the host Graham Norton pronounced them as “Buddy Brilliant!” I absolutely have to agree.