Ovation Theatres


Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story played Upstairs at the Gatehouse
12th March – 18th April 2010


Emily Altneu - Marie Elena Holly (and others)

Emily-Altneu-SpotlightEmily trained at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts and graduated in 2009 with a Postgraduate Diploma in Musical Theatre. Prior to Mountview, she studied English Literature and Theatre at Warwick University. Whilst training, she played Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Mary in The Secret Garden and Tina in Personals. Since graduating, she has been performing with OperaUpClose in the ensemble of La Boheme (Cock Tavern Theatre) and has shot two short films (London Film School). Emily is delighted to be playing Maria Elena in Buddy Holly The Musical. After performing in Buddy, Emily will be playing the part of Lucy in the first stage adaptation of the book Guess How Much I Love You. This will be a UK tour. For more information about Emily please see www.ktalent.co.uk

Andrew Ashford - Hipockets Duncan

Andrew-AshfordBorn and brought up in London, Andrew was a teacher in a London comprehensive for ten years before
embarking on a two year Actors Training Course at The Poor School, London. This is his first time
Upstairs at The Gatehouse and he is delighted to be working here. Recently he made his professional debut as Lennie in Of Mice and Men (The Dukes, Lancaster), a performance that received much critical acclaim.

Other theatre credits include Macbeth; Saturday, Sunday, Monday; A Chorus of Disapproval; The Cherry Orchard; and Oliver. TV credits Londoners!

Henry Barrett - Norman Petty and Drummer

Henry-BarrettHenry trained at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA), where he was nominated for the Spotlight Award. Credits whilst training include: Ichneumon Fly The Insect Play; Gary Shopping and F***ing; Portia Julius Caesar and Narrator/Mysterious Man Into The Woods. Since graduating credits include: Bela Zangler in Crazy For You (London Palladium); The Mighty Show (Pleasance, Islington); Animal Farm (tour of Japan/Eastern Europe); Wild Animus (tour of Germany); Romeo and Juliet/The Tempest (Shakespeare Works); Me and My Girl (London Palladium); Much Ado About Nothing Much (Pleasance, Islington); and The Mogul Tale (Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds)

Jason Blackwater -The Big Bopper (and others)

Jason-BlackwaterJason comes to us from Brighton and is very much looking forward to playing such a larger-than-life character in JP “Big Bopper” Richardson in such a successful musical. He graduated in 2007 from East 15’s acclaimed Contemporary Theatre course and took devised musical, Chav! It’s A Musical Innit, to the Edinburgh Fringe that same year, playing to several sold-out audiences. He is currently plying his trade with award-winning, improv comedy troupe, The Maydays performing with them monthly at The Komedia in Brighton and The Miller in London Bridge.

Deanna Farnell - Peggy Sue / Keyboard (and others)

Deanna-FarnellDeanna graduated with an MA in Musical Theatre from Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts & BCA Music from Wesley Institute, Sydney. Theatre credits include: Joanne in the South Australian premiere of Rent (Catchy Title Productions); Pitti-Sing in The Hot Mikado (Wesley Musical Productions); the Soul Diva in Davenport’s Christmas Wondershow; Herself in the stand up comedy act, My Family Is Strange with Jess McKenzie for Adelaide Fringe Festival; and recently for Thomas Spencer Wortley’s Christmas Tour and Believe concerts.

Other credits include backing vocals on Alex Lloyd’s album, Distant Light; choreographing an original ‘Pop-Tap’ show called, TapCats and singing the Australian, South African and New Zealand National Anthems at the Rugby World Cup. … So now she can add the American anthem to her repertoire!!

Sean Green - Sam the Man / Keyboards

Sean-GreenSean completed a postgraduate diploma in Musical Direction at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts last year. Whilst there he was assistant musical director on various productions including The Life, Steel Pier, Children of Eden and he musically directed and arranged Getting it Together, a unique promenade musical that was performed in various venues around Central London. Since graduating he has musically directed Honk! at the Edinburgh Fringe with Pendulum Productions and arranged and musically directed Pages: Promised Land for MokitaGrit Productions (Union Theatre). He was also assistant musical director on Eyebrow Production’s 48 hour Showtime Challenge performance of Crazy For You (London Palladium) and most recently musical director for Aladdin (Theatre Royal Stratford East).

Richie Hart - Waylon Jennings / Bass (and others)

Richie-HartRichie graduated from Southampton University in 2007 and trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Since then he was worked as both an actor and musician in Major Barbara (Olivier/NT); David Glover in The Inbetweeners (E4, Series 1 &2); Burnt By The Sun (Lytellton/NT); Delivery Boy in The Persusaionists (E4); and The Importance Of Being Earnest (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre)

Roger Rowley - Buddy Holly

Roger-Rowley-SpotlightRoger is soon to graduate from Guildford School of Acting and is thrilled to be making his London debut in the role of Buddy Holly. Previous professional roles include ‘Rocky’, Rocky Horror Show, (Malta Convention Centre) and a rugby-playing bully named Rory in My Spy Family (TV series for Boomerang)! He is fortunate to have received the singing prize in his second year at GSA. Credits whilst training include: Parade, The Comedy of Errors and the GSA film project. Roger also writes his own rock material under the alias Sergeant Lewis. He appeared at Guilfest 2009 and is currently searching for collaborators.


Patrick Rowe - Tommy Allsop / Lead Guitar (and others)

Patrick-Rowe-SpotlightPatrick trained at Mountview Academy in London. Theatre credits since graduating include: Word Play Box of Tricks, (Union Theatre); Word:Play2′ Box of Tricks, (Theatre 503); and Captain of the School Football Team Box of Tricks, (Latitude Festival). Film credits include: The Man I Married (London Film School/National Gallery). Television credits include a pilot episode of Home Again/All About Us (BBC). Patrick has also been involved in the development of new plays Porcelain and Collapsing Colonies, which have had staged readings at the Arcola Theatre and the Old Red Lion.

Jos Slovick - Ritchie Valens / Bass (and others)

Jos-Slovick-SpotlightJos appeared in the original London production of Spring Awakening playing the part of Georg (Lyric Hammersmith & Novello); and X the Musical (Drury Lane).

Other Credits: appeared as Dean Martin on Stars in Their Eyes Kids (ITV)

Jos Is thrilled to be part of the Buddy cast and to be performing Upstairs at the Gatehouse. He has just been cast as Matt in a brand new musical Love Story, based on the Erich Segal novel, which opens in May at the Minerva Theatre Chichester, as part of the Chichester Festival.

Nicky Swift - Vi Petty / Tenor Sax (and others)

Nicky-SwiftNicky graduated from Birmingham University with a BMus Hons and then continued her studies in Musical Theatre at The Royal Academy of Music, where she received the Ian Fleming Musical Theatre Award and the LRAM. She has performed extensively with The National Youth Music Theatre, shows include: Whistle Down The Wind (Edinburgh Fringe, Sadlers Wells, West Yorkshire Playhouse); Charlie (Buxton Opera House), Creation and Warchild (UK Tour). Also with the NYMT, Nicky performed as a soloist at St James’ Palace for HRH Prince Edward and at The Royal Albert Hall. She performed with Dame Judi Dench in An Enchanted Evening at Drury Lane Theatre. Other credits include: Sniffer in Her Benny (Liverpool Empire); Agnes in David Copperfield The Musical, (UK National tour), Oolie in City of Angels (Jack Lyons Theatre), Mrs Birling in An Inspector Calls (MTS Productions),;Sixteen Gobs (Kings Head), Felicity in Haebeas Corpus and The Blue Room (RAM). She made her Off-Broadway debut in 2005/06 in A Broadway Diva Christmas at The Julia Miles Theatre, New York, and has played Fairy Godmother in the Liverpool Everyma Theatre’s Jack And The Beanstalk, Aladdin, Mother Goose and Dick Whittington. Last year she appeared as lead vocalist with Toccata Music in a musical cabaret in Zambia, and most recently Nicky played the factory girl in Les Miserables In Concert at venues in the Channel Islands, and Jellylorum in Cats on the 2009 arena tour.

Alex Wadham - Jerry Allison / Drummer (and others)

Alex-Wadham-SpotlightAlex trained at Guildford School of Acting on the MA Acting course, finishing in September 2009 with a Distinction, following a BA (Hons.) in Drama and Theatre Studies from Aberystwyth University. Recent credits include: George Kittredge in High Society (Upstairs at the Gatehouse); Sir Dexter in On The Rocks (Pentameters Theatre); Ensemble in Crazy For You (London Palladium); The Peddler in The Peddler’s Tale – a new play by Liz Thaler for LAMDA; The Man in Angel Rust (Edinburgh Fringe 2009 Bedlam Theatre) for Total Theatre Award winning company; The River People. Whilst training at GSA Alex was nominated for the Hobson’s Prize Voiceover competition, and some of his roles include Gangster 1 and understudy Fred in Kiss Me Kate; Husband and others in Machinal; Bottom and Egeus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream; and he was Fight Captain and ensemble in My Favorite Year. Previous work includes Leontes, A Winter’s Tale; Sir Charles Sedley, Compleat Female Stage Beauty; Dentist, Little Shop of Horrors; Jesus, Godspell. This will be Alex’s second consecutive production at Upstairs at the Gatehouse and he is delighted to be back so soon! For more information visit: alexwadham.com


Written by Alan Janes and Rob Bettinson

John Plews - Director

John trained at LAMDA and spent several years in Rep including a long stay at the Theatre Royal, Windsor. He has directed and produced numerous shows including many for cruise lines Princess, Cunard and P&O. At Upstairs at the Gatehouse John has directed High Society, Come Back to the 5 and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimy Dean; Lee Hall’s Cooking With Elvis; Victoria Wood’s Talent; It’s Only Make Believe (which he co-wrote); Forever Plaid (also Edinburgh and National Tour); The Wiz; Hot Mikado; A Slice of Saturday Night; Little Shop of Horrors; Return to the Forbidden Planet and From a Jack to a King.

John wrote the stage adaptation of The Young Ones a musical based on the iconic1961 film, which played over Christmas 2007 to critical acclaim. John, along with Katie, is responsible for the day to day running of Upstairs at the Gatehouse.

Kevin Oliver Jones - Musical Supervisor


Racky Plews - Musical Staging


Sean Green - Musical Director

Sean completed a postgraduate diploma in Musical Direction at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts last year. Whilst there he was assistant musical director on various productions including The Life, Steel Pier, Children of Eden and he musically directed and arranged Getting it Together, a unique promenade musical that was performed in various venues around Central London. Since graduating he has musically directed Honk! at the Edinburgh Fringe with Pendulum Productions and arranged and musically directed Pages: Promised Land for MokitaGrit Productions (Union Theatre). He was also assistant musical director on Eyebrow Production’s 48 hour Showtime Challenge performance of Crazy For You (London Palladium) and most recently musical director for Aladdin (Theatre Royal Stratford East).

Aaron Buck - Sound Design

Aaron has been interested in sound since a very early age. He started his career when, at 16, he began working for a small sound provider in the north of England.
Since then he has toured extensively throughout the UK and Europe with many artists including: Dizzee Rascal, The Damned, Stiff Little Fingers, Go West and Electric Six.

More recently Aaron has become involved in the theatre. Credits as associate Sound Designer include: Rat Pack (West End and tour) ; Thriller Live (Lyric Shaftesbury Avenue); and the European tour of Thriller Live.

Howard Hudson - Lighting Design


Fi Russell - Set Design

Fi trained in Theatre Design at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art after graduating with First Class Honours in Scenography and Drama from Aberystwyth University.

Since graduating in 2009 she has designed the set for High Society (Upstairs at the Gatehouse); Aladdin (Tickled Pink Productions); and was Set and Costume Designer for the 2009 LAMDA Directors Showcase productions, The Peddler’s Tale, Hydriotaphia, Roberto Zucco and Little Eyolf.

Credits whilst training include: Costume and Set Design – The Blue Room, A Mad World my Masters, New England and Strange Loop; Set Design – Faultline, The Permanent Way and Days of Significance.

Whilst training Fi also assisted professional designers: Richard Bullwinkle, Dora Schweitzer, Sara Perks and Phil Engleheart.

Previous credits include: The Winter’s Tale (set), Light Shining in Buckinghamshire (costume) and Complete Female Stage Beauty (set).

Fi is currently enjoying designing the set for Buddy and looking forward to a sparkling show. .

Piera Lizzeri - Costumes

Mary Anne Colman - Stage Manager

Mary Anne’s background has predominantly focused on theatre and media – in both a performance and production capacity. Her education took her through theatre school and on to the University of Salford where she studied Media and Performance to degree level. Following this she travelled America, where she worked as a film extra whilst living in Los Angeles for several months. On her return to London, Mary Anne became a successful creative and corporate event manager, before returning to her first love, the theatre.

Recent 2009/10 stage management credits include a highly extended run of Joe Dipetrio’s play F**king Men (Kings Head, The Arts and The Lowry , Manchester) and most recently Bachaus in Rehab (The Etcetera Theatre). Mary Anne is very excited to be working Upstairs at The Gatehouse.

Edward Walls - Sound Operator

Edward graduated from the Central School Of Speech And Drama with a BA(Hons) in Event Law/Management in 2008. Since then he has worked in a variety of different roles in the theatre/music industry including: LX programmer/rigger for ‘LX Designs Limited’; Site Manager for Sellindge Music Festival and Technical Manager for the Camden Fringe. He is also an A&R scout for ‘ZenFM Presents’ and promoter for a number of live music venues in London.

This is Edward’s second show Upstairs at the Gatehouse and he is looking forward to working on it immensely.

Agi Makarewicz - Assistant Stage Manager and Prop Supervisor

Since graduating in Advertising (Wes Pomeranian University of Business Studies, Poland) Agi moved to London to develop her passion for theatre.

Last summer Agi completed a Summer Stage School in Stage Management at London Academic of Music and Dramatic Art and is planning on commencing a two-year diploma course at LAMDA in September.

Recent engagements as Assistant Set Designer include: Holiday Romance, A Winter’s Tale and Study for a Portrait. Stage management work includes (Etcetera); News Revue (Canal Café Theatre); Crazy for You (London Palladium), Human Remains (Tour); Stop Dreamin’ by Ray Cooney with music by Chas and Dave (The Mill, Sonning); and A Christmas Carol (King’s Head).

Agi was the prop supervisor and lighting operator on High Society (Upstairs at the Gatehouse) and is delighted to be back working on Buddy.

Ellie Collyer Bristow - Casting

Ellie is a freelance Casting Director and Theatre Producer.

Credits as Casting Director include: Much (The Cock Tavern): Eclipsed and Two’s Tales and A Christmas Carol (The King’s Head); Pages: Promised Land (The Union Theatre); Casting Assistant to Anna Kennedy including Features: Pimp and Legacy; Short Film: Edward’s Turmoil, TV: When Boris met Dave, Ch4 and Off The Hook, BBC3; Credits as a Producer include: Off the King’s Road, (Trafalgar Studios -rehearsed reading); MMD’s X – The Musical, (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane); Teenage Cancer Trust’s A Very Musical Evening (Bull Theatre); and for The Shoreditch Trust Best Friends and Butterflies performed with the BBC Big Band; Assistant Producer for Steam Industry’s Blood Wedding and Petite Rouge (The Scoop); for Eyebrow Productions’ Crazy For You (The London Palladium); for GRIT’s Pluto (The Blue Elephant ); and previously for SCAMP Theatre Co at Edinburgh Fringe Festivals 05, 06 and 07; Assistant Director to Phil Willmott with Aladdin (Newbury Corn Exchange).



Richard Osley, Camden New Chocolate

THEY stood up and clapped the roof off. Never have I seen the Upstairs at the Gatehouse theatre erupt in such ecstasy. Check the clap-o-meter – it’s broken.

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story was off the scale. It’s the first time the West End’s classic jukebox musical has been done on the fringe stage like this and for two hours on Tuesday night we might just as well have been in central London Theatreland rather than in Highgate Village. There were a few pals, some supporter relatives in there somewhere but the standing ovation was fully merited.

The show is always a winner on paper, although director John Plews has snipped here and there, cutting out a few flabby bits and adapting it to the smaller confines. (Note: It’s small but there’s still a movable stage that they are very proud of.)

The real trick is in the casting: newcomer Roger Rowley is a better Buddy than the one I saw at the Duchess Theatre when it was a big ticket show a couple of years ago.
His carefully observed, adroit performance captures Holly’s thirsty ambition to step beyond the ho-humming world of Country and Western and the racial bigotry that divided 1950s American music.

The first time many Americans heard Brown Eyed Handsome Man, that rattling Chuck Berry song, was when Holly covered it with affection. Rowley bashes it out here like a steam train. From that song on, you can’t fail to be hooked.
Holly helped turn music on its head, splicing hillbilly odes with the rock’n’roll power that Berry, Bo Diddley and others had got people dancing with.
Buddy himself helped develop this devil’s music, influencing another generation of musicians with the craft of That’ll Be The Day and Peggy Sue. And all before the age of 22, when he died alongside The Big Bopper (Chantily Lace) and Richie Valens (La Bamba) in a plane crash in Iowa.

This show’s electricity makes you ask once more that question about what more Holly might have achieved if that small aircraft had stayed in the air. But it’s not all about Rowley’s splendid impersonation. The rest of the cast – some slightly off-key accents aside – are on form.
Actors who play instruments, they effortlessly swap tools on stage. Deanna Farnell jolts between keys and bass guitar, Richie Hart from guitar to trumpet and Nicky Swift from sax back to keys. By the end, all are on stage and urging the audience to join them there too. Buddy may have flown into the unknown but it’s like one big, old fashioned rock’n’roll party. Don’t be worried about gatecrashing it, they’d love to see you there.

Kimberley Smith, Time Out

Buddy Holly rises from the dead in Roger Rowley’s energetic performance. And an enthusiastic cast gives every number an infectious effervescence. Not only do the actors sing, but they also multi-task as instrumentalists, in a production which deploys everything from the celeste and leg-slapping drums on ‘Everyday’, to drums, keyboards, guitar, sax and vocals.

As the eponymous Buddy, Rowley’s well-observed performance is hauntingly authentic, from excitable vocals and awkward dancing to unflinching ambition. However it’s a weakness that Buddy’s death is glossed over, failing to capture the true waste of talent extinguished at 22. And the less said about the Texan accents the better.

However, director John Plews has perfectly honed the script for the small space and the theatre’s use of a moving stage and multi-level set makes for an intimate yet spectacular atmosphere. Feeling like we’d stumbled in on a genuine Crickets performance, we start to get an idea of why this rock ‘n’ roll lark might have caught on.

Joanna Ing, WhatsOnStage.com


When Buddy last played in London it was bang in the middle of the West End (at the Duchess) with its name in lights, so it comes as some surprise to find it restaged above a pub in Highgate Village. But Upstairs at the Gatehouse is one of the better established fringe theatres and director John Plews, one half of Ovation Theatres, has a pulled off a show that would rival any West End production.
The story spans from Buddy’s beginnings as one member of the Crickets, a struggling band in Texas, fighting to keep his creativity, through to his rapid rise to success and finally the last concert before his tragically premature death in 1959.

The small venue works particularly well for the recording scenes. In the bigger scenes such as the concerts at the Apollo and Clearlake it feels as though you’ve been lucky enough to get to the front of the crowd. Set designer Fi Russell has used the stage very well. Placing the radio cubicles above the stage to be spotlighted when needed is a masterstroke and used to great effect when conveying Buddy Holly and the Crickets’ rise in the charts.

There are a few standout performances from the multi-talented cast. Andrew Ashford as Hipockets is perfect; he manages to be funny whilst conveying real affection towards the young Buddy. Furthermore his narration as the Texan DJ/manager locates you firmly in the ’50s. Jason Blackwater’s Big Bopper is fantastic and his performance of Chantilly Lace at Clearlake is one of the best of the night.

Roger Rowley has the difficult task of portraying Buddy Holly. He is clearly a talented musician and his singing as Buddy is spot on for most of the show. In the ‘on stage’ Buddy performances he manages not only to imitate his unique voice, but also his mannerisms. ‘Off stage’ he is less convincing. There are a couple of moments of supposedly high drama, which instead seem a little flat. But there are some affectionate moments between him and Emily Altneau’s Maria Elena Holly.

The rest of the cast, who play several instruments, as well as several parts each, really shine in the musical numbers where they are allowed to let loose. The joyful energy at the end when the stage erupts with music is so infectious that it will have the audience, many of whom may remember Holly’s music when it was in the charts, dancing along.

The Buddy Holly Story was never meant to be a faithful biography but a fun celebration of the legend’s incredible music. If you love Buddy Holly, if you love rock and roll, you will love this.

Aline Waites, Ham & High


THE show began with Buddy and his Crickets interrupting a folk group rendition of Rose Of Texas with an ear-wrenching rock ‘n’ roll number frightening those on-stage Texans almost as much as it did me. Rock ‘n’ roll music is not my choice of easy listening and that first crashing sound made me wish I hadn’t come. But the sheer enjoyment and energy of these young performers completely won me over and, at the end, I was joining in the standing ovation, applauding and cheering with the rest of them.

The Texans fired him, of course, but his manager, High Pockets, tries to smooth it over: “He said you were original.” “Is that a compliment?” The Texans fired him, of course, but his manager, High Pockets, tries to smooth it over: “He said you were original.” “Is that a compliment? “Not the way he said it.” Buddy became enormously successful during his sadly short life and the show finishes with his final appearance at Clear Lake in the middle of a bleak winter. Here Ritchie Vallens, The Big Bopper and Buddy were all killed when their plane crashed. As Don Maclean said, it was “The day the music died”. This show proves it didn’t.

It was written by English writers Alan Jones and Rob Bettinson with the co-operation of Buddy’s wife Maria Elena so the actual story must be taken with a pinch of salt. There may be a stronger story if told from another point of view. But who cares, it’s the music that counts and the music appears to be loved by all.

This is the freshest team of actor/musicians ever and every one of them is a joy. They are led by the amazing young Buddy addict Roger Rowley. Sean Green is dynamic and effective as Sam the Man and a mean, piano player to boot. Andrew Ashford as Highpockets and Jason Blackwater as The Big Bopper are equally memorable.

But none of this could have happened had it not been for the fanatical devotion and brilliant casting of director John Plews and Racky Plews who staged the musical numbers. This is a show to be proud of and deserves every success.

Ian Foster, The Public Reviews

Ian Foster, The Public Reviews

Rating ****

Buddy-Upstairs-at-the-Gatehouse1Previously a long-running staple of the West End, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story returns to North London for its first fringe production in Highgate’s Upstairs at the Gatehouse. It tracks the meteoric rise of Buddy Holly who managed to become one of the world’s top recording artists and shape the future of rock’n’roll music in just a couple of years before his untimely early death.

This musical puts that music full square in the centre of the show and deservedly so. Part biopic, part tribute concert, we follow Buddy and his Crickets friends on their struggles to record the type of music they wanted, their subsequent rise to fame and what it did to them. Featuring about 20 of Holly’s songs (almost every one a classic) and both acts climax in mini concerts, indeed most of the second act is a replication of the ill-fated final concert at Clear Lake, featuring Richie Valens with La Bamba and Big Poppa singing Chantilly Lace on top of Buddy Holly’s numbers to provide a bit of variety and it is all just an absolute pleasure to watch.

As Buddy Holly, Roger Rowley is very accomplished and he needs to be, the whole show rests on his shoulders, but he gets across the perfectionist intensity that drove him to great things in the studio and the nerdy charisma that permitted him to convince others to stay with him recording things over and over. His singing and guitar playing were also of an excellent standard, keeping the audience engaged and enthralled throughout.

All the actor/musician ensemble members work extremely hard though, all playing multiple roles and switching between instruments with ease. Stand-outs for me were Jason Blackwater’s Big Bopper, Nicky Swift’s sax playing, Jos Slovick’s Ritchie Valens and probably the funniest moment of the night, Deanna Farnell’s comic rendition of the US national anthem. But there really are no weak links here, everyone is having a great time and it shows.

There are issues around the scene changes. Having to wrestle large instruments and cables around a very small space presents the obvious logistical problems and these will become smoother over time, but there were much simpler changes which took just as long for no apparent reason and these really do need to be tightened up. And if you are going for a night of drama, then you will be disappointed: the telling of the story really does take a backseat to the music with very little emotional engagement being permitted, the only real connection coming with Buddy and new wife Maria-Elena duetting on True Love Ways and no real drama, even during the split with his backing band, the Crickets.

And this is the only real problem with Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story: because his life was so tragically short, there isn’t too much of a story to tell and little insight is provided here. In being so strong during the musical scenes, one longs for the dialogue to stop and for the band to start playing again. That said, for an evening’s entertainment, especially if you’re a fan of this era’s music, then you can’t go far wrong than visiting this tiny space for a larger-than-life experience. Finally i have to mention the lovely couple sat next to me who have been visiting the Gatehouse regularly for over 10 years all the way from Upminster. With fans like these, and indeed shows like these, Upstairs at the Gatehouse looks to have a bright future.

Vicki York, Totally Theatre


Buddy is a roaring success at Upstairs at The Gatehouse Theatre in Highgate. Do not miss this opportunity to see vibrant young actors bring Rock n Roll to North London. The show will run until 18th April, but don’t delay. You may want to see it again.

The Show first opened in London back in 1989 and it ran for 13 years. There is a very good reason for this. It is a wonderful show, packed full of songs which are instantly recognisable and which are sang the whole way through. You don’t feel cheated, and the atmosphere and innocence of the 50’s is instantly engulfing.

We have Alan Janes and Rob Bettinson to thank for this creation. They co wrote Buddy and have since both gone on to further successes. Janes wrote many of the Minder episodes amongst other television scripts and more recently a film adaptation of Animal Farm in the US. Bettinson, went on to write screenplay for a Death of a Salesman, and many others.

The cast is young, energetic, enthusiastic and extremely talented. Roger Rowley, playing the part of Buddy is yet to graduate from the Guildford School of Acting, but has already been awarded the singing prize in his second year. This is the second time he has taken on the part of Buddy. The first time was in Leeds and he has now made it completely his own.

It is difficult to pick out any other performance as they each offered so much to the production. Musical talent abounds on this small stage, but miracles happen at each production, and this is one of their better miracles.

If you have seen the West End version and are getting withdrawal symptoms, I can assure you that you will not be disappointed with the quality of this production, its musicality, staging, and quality of acting. Though there were a few lapses in the Southern accents at the start, this was soon forgotten as we were taken down memory Lane in fine vocal form.

Are you feeling a little jaded after a long dark and cold winter? Then Buddy is what you need, even before the blossoms grace the barren trees. The show will make you smile and sing along, and it finished with a standing ovation.
Need I say more.
Just go and see it. You will love it. It glistens.


Richard Osley, Camden New Journal

“Hi Buddy, it’s Mrs Holly”

Published: 11 March 2010


“HELLO, this is Mrs Buddy Holly,” said the voice on the other end of the phone.

And so began the unexpected moment when a Highgate theatre manager got the chance to talk musical history with the woman closest to one of rock ’n’ roll’s true giants.

John Plews, who is staging the first ever fringe production of ­Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story musical, received the call from Maria Elena Santiago as he prepared for the five-week run. She had learned through the internet that it would be staged at the Upstairs At The Gatehouse venue in Highgate village.

“At first I thought it was somebody winding me up,” said Mr Plews. “But we soon realised, this was actually Buddy Holly’s wife. What struck me was how she was still so into the music, so into her husband’s life and legacy. It’s been 51 years since Buddy died but she is still devoted.”

Holly was killed aged just 22 in a plane crash alongside fellow musicians Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens.

Mr Plews said: “Buddy had toured in London and loved it, but he never got the chance to go back with Maria Elena. She talked about his life and wished us well for the show. I asked her how tall she was to make sure our actress playing her was the right size, and I asked her if she could sing herself. She said she could, which is great because we’ve added a few bits where Maria Elena has a song.”

The musical, which tells the story of Holly’s life and his short but inspirational career, was twice a smash hit in the West End. Only when its most recent run came to an end did fringe theatres – or “Off Broadway” as they are known to Mrs Holly – get the chance to take it up. And Mr Plews was the first to dive in.

“I’ve always been a massive fan of Buddy Holly,” he said. “I’ve still got the fanclub badge and a lot of his old records.

“What you had with Buddy Holly and The Crickets was one of the first bands who wrote their own songs and made you feel like you could genuinely be like them. With the glasses and a pair of jeans, he wasn’t like Elvis. Elvis was untouchable, nobody could be like him, but somehow you felt you could be like Buddy ­Holly. I think he was so popular because people could relate to him like that and you see so many musicians – The Beatles, for example – citing him as an inspiration.”

The show has been tweaked in places and the cast and set is understandably smaller than a West End version.

But Mr Plews added: “The weekends are selling well and we’ve already had a block booking from the official British fanclub.”

The show, which stars newcomer Roger Rowley as Holly, opens tomorrow night (Friday) and runs until April 18.


Rachel O'Connor, Wharfedale Observer

“West End role for Roger and those iconic specs”

Published: 12 March 2010
by Rachel O’Connor

GOING WEST: Optician and musical director Royston Bayfield checks the likeness between local actor Roger Rowley and rock ’n’ roll legend Buddy Holly before Roger heads for the West End to play the pop idol.

Roger Rowley will be wearing his own lucky charm this week as he opens in a professional London tribute show to the rock ’n’ roll legend Buddy Holly.

Roger, 23, also played the role just over three years ago in an amateur production at Yeadon Town Hall – and when he takes to the stage in the capital he will be wearing the same unique Buddy Holly glasses that were specially made for the production back in 2006.

Roger, from Scotland Way, Horsfroth, was still studying at the Guildford School of Acting when he was picked out for the part in the professional production at the fringe theatre Upstairs at the Gatehouse.

And he decided to return to Leeds to pick up his original Buddy Holly glasses before making his professional debut as the 50s legend.

When Roger first appeared in the Grove and Rawdon Theatre Company’s production of the musical Buddy – the Buddy Holly Story he had expert help in the spectacles department.

The show’s director Royston Bayfield is also a Yeadon optician – and he used his technical expertise to re-create the iconic look.

Royston said: “We knew the show had to be as authentic as possible so as well as bringing in a rock guitarist to teach Roger the various Holly riffs, I also set about crafting two pairs of Buddy lookalike glasses.

“One was from the star’s early period and the others – the more famous ones – were like the glasses he wore towards the end of his career.”

The Yeadon show, which was a smash hit, and had people dancing in the aisles, was one of the most popular ever staged at Yeadon. Roger made such a success of the role that he landed the professional part with ease.

He said: “I open at the Gatehouse Theatre in Highgate this Friday and I am so excited. It’s such a wonderful opportunity.

“I haven’t even graduated from the Guildford School of Acting yet but they have released me specially so that I can do the show. It’s a dream come true.

“It’s three years since Royston made my Buddy Holly glasses so I came back up to Leeds to have them serviced and checked out before the curtain goes up this Friday.”

Royston said: “I was delighted to help out. I’m happy to say that the glasses were as good as the day they were made.

“Roger will be brilliant and I am sure this will be the start of even greater things to come.”

Hailed as ‘the man who changed the face of popular music’ Buddy Holly was just 22 when he died in a plane crash in 1959.

The musical which tells the story of his rise to fame is now in its 20th year and has been seen by more than 20 million people around the world.

Film News

Roger Rowley Interview

2 April 2010

RogerRowleyVery talented actor – and singer – Roger Rowley can currently be seen in a new Fringe musical production of ‘Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story’ at the Gatehouse in Highgate. While the production as a whole is definitely worth checking out (please read the accompanying review), it’s Roger’s portrayal of one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most influential figures that will blow your bobby sox off!
Film-News caught up with him to find out more about the man and the performance!

Roger, how did you land the part of Buddy Holly – there must have been serious competition!

Roger Rowley:
I’ve never asked how many were actually auditioned for the role but I imagine quite a few, since the initial auditions ran for 3 days and everyone seemed to have a guitar on their back! I was back a week later for recalls where there seemed to be two of us duelling for the part, but I’ve never enjoyed an audition so much. I’ve been Buddy before back in my Leeds hometown, and when a friend at drama school (from which I’m yet to graduate) linked me to the open audition notice, I thought it a good idea to stay up late and gather some audio/visual reference from my previous performance to submit with the CV & photo. Best foot forward & all that! That I then had the role was the best news I’ve had in three years.

Were you familiar with Buddy’s story and short life before you auditioned for the part, and also, what interested you in the role to begin with?

R. Rowley:
Having played the part before, I was, but only superficially. Before the 2006 show with my local theatre group, I had no idea what songs he’d written. I knew he’d reaped it in a plane crash because I had sang Don McLean’s American Pie at a youth club gig, but even then, my approach was to take the character mainly from the script and music with only a small ammount of internet research. Fighting for the part professionally in 2010, I dived straight into every book and documentary I could find (although I’m a shockingly slow reader and I’ve since only finished one!) and bought everything he recorded. I like doing that with old bands anyway, tackling them in one big block. Iggy Pop & David Bowie got the same treatment last year. My own band has seen several line-ups and incarnations, so a lot of Buddy’s experiences hold a special resonance with me, e.g. the desperately charged atmosphere of the recording studio or not knowing quite how to talk to an audience.

Everything about your performance is spot on, from the physical transformation to the way you move on stage, play the guitar in a downstroke way and general body language. How did you study and adapt Buddy’s characteristics?

R. Rowley:
Thank you! There is a lot of me in there. The laugh, the grin, the awkwardness. There isn’t much reference of Buddy in existence bar his music, yet the bizzarre hiccups and pitch bends in his vocal do lend many potent clues to a personality. There’s been about four television spots and a handful of radio interviews/phonecalls preserved, but they show Buddy in a very restrained and polite environment as he appeases his elder hosts & interviewers. The Buddy people remember on stage would fling himself about with utter abandon and the on-stage/off-stage contrast was apparently akin to that of flicking a light switch on. I’m certain he retained his manners and close relationship with the audience, which is clear from these surviving interviews, but he was no pushover on stage. The downstroke playing of his stratocaster, which was rather innovative at the time for such a sensitive and jangly instrument, can’t be anything other than a conscious decision to make more of the guitarist/ singer/ frontman presence than had previously been thought possible, or even allowed. He ended up having to cut through some massive audiences with that tiny amplifier too. Personally, I couldn’t think of anything better with which to blow away the intricate fills and meandering melodies of Texan Country music, than by smacking out a handful of major chords in a straight down motion! And then doing the same thing for the solos. Just higher up the neck or on a different pickup setting!

How easy or difficult was it to tune in with the actors who portray your band The Crickets?

R. Rowley:
The music came together very quickly and they’re a lovely set. We take care of each other on stage, as we’re always one step away from a fatal wire-tangling incident at any time! Ritchie who plays Joe on double bass is a huge musical talent with a lot more up his sleeve I’m sure, and Alex has been a dynamic and consistent drummer, every bit the slinky Jerry Allison you can watch in those old video clips. Jos has the difficult task of “4th cricket”, being an extra guitar for little reward. Our director at least re-instated his proper name (Nikki Sullivan, who left the Crickets after their first tour) and he’s a strong performer so he can make the most of it. I can safely say I’m the least musically endowed on that stage, as music theory has always baffled me. I know finger shapes and handy cheats and “cool sounds”. As for true acting dynamic, the dialogue between our characters isn’t the best, but it’s easy to just have a good time as a set of young lads making music.

One of your previous roles was Rocky in The Rocky Horror Show… once again a singing part in a cult musical. Are these the kind of roles you prefer, or is it just coincidence?

Well they look great next to each other on the CV! It’s a co-incidence, but I’m obviously and ardently into rock music and it shows in my voice. During the obligatory years I spent failing to get into drama school on an Acting course, I got involved with the musical theatre available in my hometown. That’s where I did Buddy, it’s where I met the MD of Rocky on a Les Mis workshop he was touring. After all that, I’d become an experienced singer /actor so I thought why not audition for a Musical Theatre course. I got in on my first try this time. I can’t dance though, which has been the beign of my existence for the last three years and is the reason I find myself branching out to cult theatre, Rock N Roll and (I intend) television!

You also have your own music project on the sly, in the incarnation of Sergeant Lewis. Tell me a little about it…

R. Rowley:
Sergeant Lewis (www.sergeantlewis.net) is some sort of punk melodrama tarted up with Glam leftovers, in a traditional 3-piece with lots of overdrive. It’s the personification of all the nasty, lashing, fearful reactions in my head and it gets quite funny sometimes. It’s like a horrid cartoon character, so I get to make mountains out of molehills and tell fantastic stories inspired by the truly mundane. At least that’s what I tell myself. I’d love to say I don’t take it too seriously, in the metal-pop spirit of Terrorvision or the indie-pop of Kaiser Chiefs (both acts with a distinctly Northern self-deprecation and playfulness) but I think maybe I do! It used to be a humdrum folk band with a violin, not a specific character, but falling down this rabbit-hole of performing arts has left me with a hell of a lot to prove and many arses to kick. It’s all horribly self-referential. We played at Guilfest last year and have just finished an EP!

What would be your ultimate dream role?

R. Rowley:
I would love to play Galileo Figaro in We Will Rock You, even though they always seem to cast an older guy from another country! Aside from that, I want to break into TV & film where the possibilities are infinite. The possibilities of the West End are definitely not infinite! Playing David Bowie in something would be super-wonderful. Maybe I can help him recover from the bad taste that was Velvet Goldmine…

Many thanks for the interview, and best wishes for your future projects!

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Josh Loeb, Islington Tribune

Latest news – Official – Buddy is big at Highgate’s Upstairs at the Gatehouse

Published: 15 April 2010

• IT’S official – Buddy: The Holly Story is the biggest-ever hit at Highgate’s Upstairs at the Gatehouse, having broken all box office records there. Demand for tickets has been higher than for any other show in the theatre’s history. With the run set to end this weekend, actors are hoping the show will transfer elsewhere so the fun can continue.

[ Link to article ]