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Buddy is an odd import from London that features the American rock singer Paul Hipp in an evening-long impersonation of Buddy Holly. You will enjoy the show strictly in proportion to your enjoyment of Buddy Holly's music and performance style. A rock-and-roll singer at the dawn of time, Holly was tethered to a microphone and was extremely laconic in his use of body English. He wrote "That'll Be the Day," "Peggy Sue," "Johnny B. Goode" and other golden oldies, and performed them with a playful vocal panache, which Paul Hipp mimics persuasively.

A teenage workaholic who was dead at the age of 20, Holly didn't have much of a life for purposes of dramatization. Aside from his string of pop chart successes, the only thing he did of narrative interest was to rid himself of the group he first performed with, at the promptings of his wife and (I would imagine, though the show's writer, Alan Janes, doesn't) a canny sense that all the pie is better than a slice. After the break, to judge by the tunes in the show, Holly's mind turned to cheese, much the way John Lennon's did in similar circumstances. Overall, the story component of Buddy has all the pace and drive of a Nativity pageant, and is no less reverent.

As a living, singing wax museum of late fifties rock, with guest spots for impersonators of Ritchie Valens (Philip Anthony doing "La Bamba") and the Big Bopper (David Mucci with "Chantilly Lace"), Buddy is an object of both innocent fun and baleful fascination, depending on the degree to which you bought into the pop culture of the fifties. I enjoyed the songs on the radio at the time without paying much attention to them, but if these people were on TV, I never saw them. So it came as a surprise to see that the Big Bopper, in person, came on like a happy white dork doing a gross-out parody of black style, without blackface. Nothing in the Buddy Holly persona is of equal interest, at least not as represented on the stage of the Shubert Theatre. What is also not represented is the female sex, except for a memorable rendition of "Sweet Love" by Sandra Caldwell, Denese Matthews and Lorraine Scott, as imaginary precursors of Motown style. They reminded the audience that they were at a Broadway show.

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Title Annotation:Shubert Theater, New York City
Author:Disch, Thomas M.
Publication:The Nation
Article Type:Theater Review
Date:Dec 17, 1990
Previous Article:Oh, Kay!
Next Article:Six Degrees of Separation.

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