Five decades after Holly’s tragic plane crash, the life and career of this true artistic pioneer is celebrated in this heartwarming and lively production. On opening night the role of Buddy was portrayed by Andy Christopher, who brought a certain nerdy flair to the character with his charming smile and fantastic voice. Casting these roles with specific looks and voices together must be a pain for casting directors, but Christopher made the Buddy Holly role look and sound natural.
Also entertaining was the energetic and elastic Sam Weber, who performed the role of Joe B. Mauldin, the bassist in Holly’s backup band, the Crickets. At times he stole the spotlight from Christopher with an uncanny ability to twist, turn, flip, stand on and shake his bass in the musical performances. The only thing he didn’t do was spin on his head.
The show, written by Alan Janes for Broadway in 1989, features Holly’s favourites like Peggy Sue, That’ll Be The Day, Oh Boy and Rave On. It begins in high school and spends a great deal of the first act in recording studios at Decca and with pioneering record producer Norman Petty recording the famous music. The first act also spends a little time at the Apollo Theater, where Holly broke all the rules becoming the first white performer to take the stage at the renown Harlem showcase.
Act two continues the story with Holly’s quick rise to fame and his eventual demise in a plane crash on February 3, 1959. Holly, Richie Valens, JP “Big Bopper” Richardson and pilot Roger Peterson were killed en route to Moorhead, Minnesota, when their plane crashed soon after taking off from nearby Mason City in the early morning hours. The majority of the second act takes place the night of February 2 at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa with performances from Holly, Valens and the Big Bopper in a back-to-back concert sequence.
The cast featured actors of various skill level, with notable performances from Ryan G. Dunkin with multiple roles including the Big Bopper, Noellia Hernandez as Holly’s wife Maria Elena and Ryan Jagru as Ritchie Valens. On the other end of the scale, Mahalia Jackson seemed to struggle through an Apollo singing performance, but made up for it with her charming diva skills.
Buddy – The Buddy Holly story is a great test on the fly tower system at Dunfield with several scenes dropping down throughout the entire production, leaving audiences with little-to-no wait time for set changes. For Cambridge theatre goers, the fly tower makes all the difference in the world and allows for touring productions like Buddy to come to town.
The set itself was fabulous, with lots of colour, detail and flash. The Apollo Theater scene was impressive with its giant Apollo logo and silver backdrop, which easily went from the stage to backstage by simply raising the logo.
If you’re looking for a fun time with great music and a captivating story, you can’t go wrong with Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story, on now until August 31 at the Dunfield Theatre.
Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story