Interview: Roger Rowley, star of Buddy - The Buddy Holly Musical
'The first time I heard the song "Oh Boy!" was on the musical's website'
Familiar from grainy film footage and his polite interpretation of early rock'n'roll, Buddy Holly makes an unlikely subject for a jukebox musical. His short career, and reputation as the courteous man of rock, seems to lack the high drama of other, more controversial musicians.
Roger Rowley, who plays Buddy, disagrees. 'I feel quite protective of him. He can easily be taken as a caricature – the nice rock star in glasses. But telling a bio-play, we portray the character in dramatic situations.'
Modern celebrities find themselves under constant public scrutiny, exposing their bad behaviour. 'But back then the truth about people in the media was kept under wraps,' Rowley says. The musical presents Holly as a rounded person. 'So we show him breaking up with his band, meeting his wife for the first time,' he explains. The drama of his life provides the structure for the story and puts the songs in context.
Rowley's relationship with the man and the show is long-standing. 'At the moment, the Buddy Holly story is my career so far!' he laughs. 'It was my first job out of drama school. I had done a lot of the groundwork in an amateur show before I went to drama school. I have done three versions so far.'
From barely knowing Buddy – when he did the show for the first time, he ‘vaguely knew "Peggy Sue": the first time I heard the song "Oh Boy!" was on the musical's website' – he has come to recognise Holly's importance. 'I love doing it because Buddy Holly was an artist. I know him as well as I can do through my own body!' But he realises it is more than impersonation.
'At the end of the day you have to perform to an audience of 2000 people and it is paramount to tell the story well,' he concludes. 'Only then do you put the Buddy accent on, the trademark hiccups and intonation.'
King's Theatre, Glasgow Mon 16–Sat 21 Jun.