>reviewed by daniel lim

>date: 23 mar 2001
>time: 8pm
>venue: kallang theatre
>rating: ****

>tired already? go home then
>review junkie? whitney, give them this click to sniff

>look, we know that you need to know that we, as responsible reviewers, have some quantifiable categories to rate productions, and are not just relying on some undefinable instinct or gut feeling. So to put your mind at ease, we will give you a logical rating system based on the practitioner's vision / and the reviewer's response of a particular production. Here it is then: ***** : Transcendent / Rapturous. ****: Crystal / Appreciative. ***: Transmitted / Thoughtful. **:Vague / Unsatisfied. * : Uncommunicated / Mystified. Yet in the end, you will feel that this is (1) a cheap attempt to justify the subjective arbitrariness of our rating system (2) buttressed by an interest in the logical (and inevitable) categorisation of such productions, which is (3) undermined by the cheapness of the attempt, and (4) confused by the creeping feeling you are getting that we are dead serious in our feeling that this rating system is an accurate description of the content, intent and quality of the production. Oh please -- does it even matter now? Look, at least we tried.


Engelbert Humperdinck, Nat King Cole, Elvis, The Beatles, Cliff Richard - music that I grew up on; that drove me wild - and sometimes (with a certain parent's soulful renditions) off the deep end, down the cliff, onto the jagged rocks of despair...

After going to 3 different media previews of BUDDY THE MUSICAL and listening to the numerous songs sung by Craig Urbani (as Buddy Holly), my initial misperception of another 'Are You Lonesome Tonight?' wannabe singer was drastically corrected. I felt chastised. I actually liked Buddy's music, I knew the lyrics and I unconsciously sang along.

With anticipation, I awaited opening night.

The set was good ol' American vintage. The first thing that came to my mind when I looked at the set was Quaker Oats and Campbell Soup. Any moment I expected Ritchie to appear, groaning Hispanic hysterics at Lucy's latest antics.

Narration was through D.J. radio booths (courtesy of K Dav Radio Station in Lubbock(?) in Texas) which suddenly lit up with every change of scene. Set changes were smooth, which was quite a feat considering all the props that had to be maneuvered around.

Props aside, the essence of this play was in its music.

Therefore, the measure of success of BUDDY THE MUSICAL is the ability of its singing cast to evoke and stir emotions and response from the audience. In other words, I had to count the number of bobbing heads in the crowd.

The Australian cast, led by veteran Craig Urbani, put on a flawless performance of song, dance and hilarious antics. Craig's rendition of Buddy's chart toppers like 'That'll Be The Day' and 'Peggy Sue' were spot-on in the trademark nasal vocals and guitar jangling that were Buddy Holly.

>>'Do not expect drama. It is a simple, fun story where the key is in the music; and the music was good'

The play's interpretation of the name change of the classic hit 'Peggy Sue' (Jerry Allison, the drummer's fiancée) from 'Cindy Lou' (Buddy's 2-year old cousin then) due to Jerry's need "to get some (XXX)" from Peggy was hilarious, and one of the many instances of injected wit and humour throughout the musical.

The composing of the evergreen ballad 'Everyday' (in Norman Petty's recording studio in Clovis, New Mexico with Mrs Petty) caused me to unconsciously sing along (I could not help myself) and resulted in conscious jabs in the ribs from the left. Later came a string of hits like 'Rave On', 'Oh Boy', 'Maybe Baby', 'Not Fade Away'. With Craig's rendition of 'True Love Ways', I suddenly thought of the NTUC Supermarket commercial - realising that Buddy's music is lurking all around where you least expect it.

Later when the scene shifted to The Crickets' performance in an all-black theatre in Harlem, New York, my first intuition was, "Aretha is in the House!" Cheryl Craig was outstanding in her high-to-the-ceiling vocals of blues numbers like 'Blue Days, Black Nights' and 'Mailman Bring Me No More Blues', accompanied by the saxophone, trumpet and bass ensemble. Lay it on - Soul, Blues, Gospel, the works!

By the time Ritchie Valens, Buddy and "The Big Bopper" J.P. Richardson, played by Ricky Rojas, Craig and Elliot Weston respectively came on with 'La Bamba', the sea of bobbing heads, clapping hands and tapping feet was resounding through Kallang Theatre. There was no going back.

I was taken aback by the infusion of spontaneity throughout the musical. When asked to clap and sing along, the eagerness to comply was astonishing, given the apathetic and unaccommodating nature of our local audiences. This could be due to the significant proportion of unrestricted Caucasians in the audience. But not to take credit away from the cast who displayed great skill with their musical instruments and free-flowing antics - Buddy playing the electric guitar backwards over his head, standing on the bass and singing; and Ritchie Valens shaking his bon bon (long before Ricky Martin was born) and sliding all around.

The icing on the cake came in the last number, Chuck Berry's 'Johnny B.Goode' where everyone stood up, danced, clapped, sang along and stomped to the grooves.

BUDDY THE MUSICAL is about a journey into American Rock 'n' Roll history, about a small town musical genius unearthed and tragically killed in his prime in an airplane crash. The songs were so familiar, songs that twanged my heart and put rhythm in my feet, music that I finally could put a face to.

Do not expect drama. It is a simple, fun story where the key is in the music; and the music was good.