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The Buddy Holly Story
MusicBuddy Holly and others
LyricsBuddy Holly and others
Book Alan Janes
Productions1989 Plymouth Theatre Royal 1989–2002 West End
1990–1991 Broadway
1991–2016 UK Tours
1991–2016 US National Tours
International productions
2007–2008 West End Revival

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story is a musical in two acts written by Alan Janes, and featuring the music of Buddy Holly. It opened at the Plymouth Theatre Royal in September 1989 before It transferred to the Victoria Palace Theatre on 12 October 1989. An early example of the jukebox musical, Buddy ran in London's West End for over 12 years, playing 5,140 performances. Janes took over the producing of the show himself in 2004, and Buddy has been on tour extensively in the UK since then, having played Broadway, five U.S. National Tours and numerous other productions around the world. The show was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Musical.


A late-night fan-based conversation in a bar of the Montcalm Hotel in London's West End in 1988, between the theatrical agent Laurie Mansfield, film producer Greg Smith and writer/producer Janes, about rock and roll musician Buddy Holly, led Janes to develop and write Buddy. A year later, supported by Paul McCartney, who owned the copyright to Buddy Holly's music, the show was produced at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, before its transfer to London's Victoria Palace. [1]


Original production

Alan Janes worked with originating director Rob Bettinson, and originating musical director Paul Jury, to present the show for a three/week pre-London engagement in August 1989 at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, with Paul Hipp as Buddy Holly. The first shows were beset by technical problems, but audiences were enthusiastic. [2]

West End productions

Buddy transferred to the Victoria Palace Theatre and opened on 12 October 1989. Structural engineers were called to the theatre to make sure the dress circle could take the weight as the structure bounced with the audience as they danced. Buddy transferred to the Novello Theatre, completing a total of 12 and a half years and 5,140 performances at the two theatres. In 2007, Janes brought the show back to the West End at the Duchess Theatre, where it played for a further 634 performances. [3] [4] The 50th Anniversary of Holly's death was celebrated on 3 February with a special performance incorporating several new numbers for that one night. The role of Buddy Holly was equally shared by Dean Elliott and Matthew Wycliffe, who played the role in the 2007 UK touring company. [5] Ritchie Valens was played by Puerto Rican actor Miguel Angel, and J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper) by actor Lee Ormsby. [6] 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. [7]

UK national tours

A UK national tour of Buddy began in June 1991 at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth. This was the first West End production to tour the UK while still playing in the West End; it set a record of 243 weeks of continuous touring, or 4 years 35 weeks on the road.[ citation needed] Buddy has continued to tour frequently in the UK. [8]

Broadway production/US national tours

After a Toronto try-out and 15 previews, the Broadway production, also 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 Maria Elena. The show has toured extensively throughout the US, starting with a 53-week tour in November 1991, and with the 5th tour finishing in March 2016. [9]

International and touring productions

Buddy has been staged in more than 17 countries, including Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, UK and USA. Over 25 million people have seen the show worldwide. In Australia, the show's first tour played Sydney's Theatre Royal for 36 weeks before continuing throughout Australia for a further 60 weeks. The second Australian tour in 2009 ran for 39 weeks. [10]

In Germany, the Stage Theatre in Hamburg was built on land next to the river Elbe specifically for Buddy, where the show played for seven years between 1994 and 2001.[ citation needed]



Performance at the White House for President Bush

Act I

The action takes place in Lubbock, Texas; Clovis, New Mexico; New York City and Clear Lake, Iowa; between January 1956 and February 1959.

With the support of local Lubbock Texas radio DJ, Hipockets Duncan, Buddy and his two friends form a Country & Western band – Buddy Holly & the Crickets – and begin to carve out a career in music. After a difficult start at Decca Records in Nashville, they sign a contract with up-and-coming, innovative record producer Norman Petty who is based in Clovis, New Mexico. Within hours, Buddy Holly & the Crickets start to churn out hits from the recording studio built in Norman's backyard, among them "That'll Be The Day", which will rocket up the charts to number one in a matter of weeks. Buddy Holly & the Crickets are suddenly the hottest act in the country and out on national tour.

Buddy and his band go to New York where they perform at the Apollo Theater making history as the first white band to perform there.

Act II

While recording in New York, Buddy proposes to Maria Elena Santiago, the Puerto Rican receptionist of his music publisher after a courtship of all of five hours. Newly married and ambitious, he shifts focus to New York and a rift develops between him and the Crickets. After a declaration of home truths during a recording session, the band split and Buddy unexpectedly finds himself having to pursue a solo career.

Buddy joins The Winter Dance Party of 1959, a bus tour through the Midwest quenching the teenage thirst for the "new music called Rock 'n' Roll" The tour is hard work, the weather conditions appalling and the performers are alternating between sleeping in the luggage racks and dropping into hospital to be treated for frostbite.

The story ends on February 3, 1959, after a rocking concert with the " Big Bopper" J.P. Richardson and Ritchie Valens at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. Buddy makes the fateful decision to break his promise to his pregnant wife not to fly, as he and the other two headliners board a small plane and take off into the night destined for their next show. During a snow storm, in the dead of night, the plane crashes and spares no survivors.


Act 1

  • Grand Bowl, Lubbock, Texas
  • A Lubbock diner
  • Decca Recording Studios, Nashville
  • KDAV Radio Studio, Lubbock
  • NorVaJak Studios, Clovis, New Mexico
  • Apollo Theatre, Harlem, New York

Act 2

  • Music Publisher's Office, New York
  • Central Park, New York
  • NorVaJak Studios, Clovis
  • Buddy & Maria Elena's Apartment, New York
  • Backstage Surf Ballroom, Clear Lake, Iowa
  • Clear Lake Concert

Song list

Cast list

Character Original West End Cast Broadway
Buddy Holly Paul Hipp
The Big Bopper Gareth Marks David Mucci
Ritche Valens Enzo Squillino Jr. Philip Anthony
4th Cricket Billy Geraghty Ken Triwush
Joe B. Mauldin David Howarth Bobby Prochaska
Jerry Allison David Bardsley Russ Jolly
Hipockets Duncan Vincent Marzello Fred Sanders
Norman Petty Ron Emslie Kurt Ziskie
Maria Elena Santiago Laurence Bouvard Jill Hennessy
Vi Petty Lorna Lee Jo Lynn Burks
Apollo Main Man Trevor Michael Georges Demo Cates
Apollo Singer Shenton Dixon Jerome Smith, Jr.
Sandra Caldwell
Denise Matthews
DJ at Apollo Don Stitts
Session Musician Graham Brand Alvin Crawford
Belmont Paul Edwards Kevin Fox
Maria's Aunt Carmen Gomez Liliane Stilwell
Dion DiMucci Adam Henderson
Murray Deutch Douglas LeLand Steve Steiner
DJ Clear Lake Bo Light
Stage Manager Peter Mumford
Peggy Sue Claudia Morris Melanie Doane
Mary Lou Megg Nichol Karen Cole
Decca Engineer Paul McQuillan


  1. ^ "Buddy, the Buddy Holly Musical".
  2. ^ [1] and information from
  3. ^ From official web site diary entries Archived July 8, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Clisby, Heather. "Special Report: Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story", Movie Magazine International, 16 June 2004
  5. ^ Bannister, Rosie (December 11, 2012). "Buddy announces 25th anniversary tour". WhatsOnStage.
  6. ^ The Current UK Tour Cast of The Buddy Holly Story, The Official Buddy Holly Story website, February 2011
  7. ^ Gans, Andrew (December 7, 2010). "Buddy–The Buddy Holly to Tour the U.K.; Itinerary Announced". Playbill. Retrieved April 1, 2022.
  8. ^ "Fact Not Fiction", Buddy Worldwide Limited, accessed 27 April 2020
  9. ^ Nathan, John (May 2, 2007). "Buddy Is Back: Buddy Holly Show to Return to the West End". Playbill. Retrieved April 1, 2022.
  10. ^ "Globetrotting World Tours", Buddy Worldwide Limited, accessed 27 April 2020

External links