Buddy - the Rock & Roll extravaganza coming to Peterborough

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"I sometimes slap myself silly to realise how lucky I am,” is how AJ Jenks sums up the privilege of playing Rock & Roll legend Buddy Holly on stage in a hit musical coming to Peterborough next month.

“It is a pure joy and at same time real pressure because Buddy was a real person,” adds the star of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story at New Theatre from September 26-30.

“You know the audience have their own memories of Buddy, his music and who he was, so at same time you want to honour that legacy rather than let them down. Which is a lot different to playing a fictional character,” he added.

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It is a role AJ, an actor-musician who graduated from Mount View, was destined to play, as he says: “Buddy has always been in my life. I saw the show in 2009 when I was a kid and since then I have always wanted to play that part. I was kind of interested in acting back then.

AJ Jenks as Buddy HollyAJ Jenks as Buddy Holly
AJ Jenks as Buddy Holly

"Both my parents were huge Beatles fans and that was all they played. I grew up on 50s, 60s, 70s music so when I saw Buddy that was normal, modern music that I was used to listening to. It wasn't until I got a little older I realised I was very much out of touch.

“Then around 2017 I heard it was coming back and it took me about a year to get the part (in the 2019 covid-hit tour) by basically pestering producers, directors and MDs – sending videos and constantly telling them how I would play the part. I think they got quite annoyed in the end and that’s why they gave me the part.”

The show centres around the main 18 months of Buddy’s career, from him coming into the spotlight to The Crickets in the studio writing songs together and slowly making their way up the fame ladder, leading up to his death aged just 22.

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“We get a lot of old rock and rollers come to watch, but on this tour there has been a lot of kids, teens and 20-somethings that have come to see the show. His music is on adverts and on Spotify etc and is cropping up more, which is how new people get to hear it.

“There hasn't been one show where we haven't had everybody up dancing and going absolutely ape.

“It is amazing what music can do. You can see people in front of you hear the first couple of notes of Peggy Sue for instance. They inhale and you will see them living out those memories and then just rise from their seats and start dancing. It is a beautiful thing.”

So AJ’s message to Peterborough theatregoers?

"It is a real rock and roll extravaganza,” he says.

“It is telling a story and then the entire cast play all the music live for you on stage. It is fantastic.

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“We play more than 30 songs - the great thing is they are all about a minute and a half - so we play a ton of songs and still tell the story.

“There are are a few other characters - Richie Valens and The Big Bopper - so they play their stuff but primarily it is Buddy. The amount of songs he wrote in just 18 months is incredible.”

And his favourite?

"It changes, but Peggy Sue is at a crucial moment in the show and has a huge impact, it really gets a reaction from the audience as soon as we hit into that song .... but if you asked me tomorrow it could be something completely different.”​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​