Buddy Holly jukebox musical at Artscape

Jethro Tait as Buddy Holly.

Pieter Toerien presents a brand-new, full-scale stage production of the rock ’n’ roll jukebox musical, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, at the Artscape Opera House, from Tuesday March 28 to Sunday April 16.

Directed by English director and choreographer, Nick Winston, the tribute show follows the journey of Buddy’s meteoric rise to the top of the record charts during the golden days of rock ’n’ roll.

Leading an all-South African cast is singer and songwriter Jethro Tait as Buddy Holly. The ensemble includes Bethany Dickson and Keaton Ditchfield, with Michael Stray, Chad Baai, Simone Neethling, Gianluca Gironi, Thoko Jiyane, Che-Jean Jupp, Gerard van Rooyen, Koketso Mere, Gabriela Dos Santos, Virtuous Kandemiri, Sindiswa Ndlovu and Morgan Marshall.

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

With the support of local radio DJ, Hipockets Duncan, Buddy and his two friends form a country and western band – Buddy Holly and 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. Within hours, Buddy Holly and 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 and the Crickets are suddenly the hottest act in the country and out on national tour.

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” JP 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.

Original set and costume designs are by Fleur du Cap winner, Niall Griffin and musical direction by Wessel Odendaal.

Tickets cost from R150 to R500 through Webtickets or the theatre box office on 021 438 3300/1.