Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story 2013

Written on July 22nd, 2013


Buddy Back at the Bend

The Buddy Holly musical is so popular that this marks the third time in 10 seasons that it has been on stage at Huron Country Playhouse. It’s a crowd-pleaser with great music that will always sell out. And it serves one important purpose: it attracts new people who otherwise wouldn’t be musical theatre-goers. While it’s always good to get new folks in the door at Huron Country Playhouse, Drayton Entertainment is using Buddy to boost attendance at their new Dunfield Theatre in Cambridge, drawing a different crowd than their opener, Mary Poppins.

Buddy Holly’s music is amazing and this show is perfectly written, mixing in his prolific repertoire of early rock and roll with his short life story to create a very entertaining musical. For those not familiar with the true story of this remarkable young talent, Buddy Holly was a teenager in Lubbock, Texas who started his own band, building on what was called at the time, “coloured music”. He was a pioneer of rock and roll, which many in the southern US believed was the devil’s music. Buddy also broke down barriers by marrying a Latina, Maria Elena Santiago. With dozens of hit songs on the radio, his life was cut short way too soon, when he was on tour and his plane crashed on February 3, 1959. Buddy died at age 22, along with J. P. Richardson – The Big Bopper, 28, Richie Valens, 17 and the pilot of the small plane.

Unfortunately, this version of the Buddy Holly musical doesn’t live up to the previous productions at Huron Country Playhouse. Granted, it is a difficult show to cast: you need triple threats (actors/singers/dancers) who can also play instruments. Rarely do you find experts in all four categories, and therefore, acting and dancing talent is absent from the current show.

Specifically, the show dragged due to the lack of comedic ability. The opportunities for laughs were lost: Buddy’s interaction with Hipockets Duncan is supposed to be funny, and Murray Deutch, the New York record producer should be hilarious. In 2006, the commercial jingle singers were side-splitting: they promoted cigarettes and then concluded the song with a coughing fit. This time, the jingle lyrics were not comprehensible. And the biggest missed opportunity for much needed comic relief (when we know Buddy’s death is imminent) is Mary Lou Sokoloff, the Winter Beauty Queen. In past productions, she was an awkward baton twirler, who attempts to tap dance while singing the US national anthem and leaves the audience in stitches. In the current production, it seems like a realistic effort at singing the anthem; the audience wondering if they should be standing at attention to honour our southern guests.

Sadly, there is no chemistry between Buddy and Maria Elena. Unfortunately, on opening night it was an understudy in the role of Maria Elena so maybe that’s the reason. The understudy does not have a good handle on the Spanish accent, losing it half way through most of her lines.

This production did not include any dance numbers. In the past, Huron Country Playhouse included dancers, who livened up the first scene at the Hayride roller rink, and also danced in the aisles at the final concert. As well, I also have a vivid memory of Melanie Phillipson doing a huge cartwheel over the back of Keith Savage, part of some their amazing, energetic choreography in 2003.

The current production is an American touring company, and perhaps they’re tired and can’t maintain the necessary energy. The show slowed in the middle, but fortunately, the cast was able to pick it up when they went into concert mode for the Clear Lake finale.

It’s disappointing that Drayton brought in this US group after building great Canadian star power. We are used to seeing very talented favourites such as Victor Young and Keith Savage, and we now expect that high calibre. This group, mostly young, just doesn’t have experience behind them when you peruse their bios. Adam Furfaro was at the Playhouse this past week as director of Weekend Comedy. He directed the two previous productions of Buddy: If he attended this reincarnation of Buddy, he would surely have been disappointed.

We have also come to expect more when it comes to costumes, wigs and sets. These did not live up to usual Drayton standards.

Nevertheless, this show will sell out thanks to the good music and script, but it could be so much better. If you enjoy songs such as That’ll Be the Day, Everyday, Peggy Sue, Heart Beat and Rave On, plus the Big Bopper’s Chantilly Lace and Richie Valens’ La Bamba then you’ll enjoy this, just for the music.

Buddy continues until July 27 at Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend. Tickets are available by calling the Box Office: 519-238-6000 or Toll Free 1-855-372-9866, or check www.huroncountryplayhouse.com

Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story
By Alan Janes
Directed and choreographed by Norb Jorder
Performed by Andy Christopher, Kurt Jenkins et al.
Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend
July 17 to 27, 2013
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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