By Alan Janes & Rob Bettinson
Performed by Zachary Stevenson as Buddy Holly, plus cast
Directed by Adam Furfaro
Drayton Entertainment Production
Huron Country Playhouse
July 27 to August 12, 2006
Reviewed by Mary Alderson
Buddy Holly is alive & well in Grand Bend
Back by popular demand may sound like a cliché, but in this case it’s true. Buddy ~ The Buddy Holly Story was so popular and sold out so quickly in 2003, that Huron Country Playhouse has brought it back to Grand Bend three years later.
And there’s no doubt that this wonderful rock & roll romp will sell out again. This show combines the true story of the late great Buddy Holly with some comedic scenes and some wonderful music. There is, of course, the very sad news that Buddy has died in a plane crash, but other than that moment, it is most entertaining, light summer fare.
Buddy demands a very talented cast – not only does it require singer-dancer-actors, but they must be quadruple threat – many must also play a musical instrument. It can’t be easy to find performers strong in all four areas, but Director Adam Furfaro has been successful.
The first act traces Buddy’s rise to fame, with hits such as “That’ll Be The Day”, “Peggy Sue”, and “Oh Boy”. The show concludes with a re-creation of his final performance, featuring “Maybe Baby”, “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore”, and “Rave On”, among many others. This show drives home the fact that Buddy Holly was a musical genius, creating hit after hit in a very short life.
So how does this production compare with the 2003 version? This cast has some better singers, but in 2003 there were some better dancers. Is it better or worse? No, it’s equally as a good, but there are differences.
Of the 14 cast members, only Playhouse favourite, Keith Savage, has returned. He is excellent as the hell-fire and brimstone preacher warning of the sins of rock & roll, he’s very good as Producer Norm Petty and he’s hilarious as Murray Deutch of the New York recording company.
Zachary Stevenson as Buddy Holly is excellent; he may have a singing voice better than Buddy himself. And with the thick, black-rimmed glasses, he even bears some resemblance. Ange Pagano is endearing as Buddy’s wife Maria Elena, among the other roles she plays. Shannon McCaig is good as Vi Petty and Maria’s Aunt, and Brenley Charkow shows excellent comedic skills in portraying Shirley and Mary Lou, the baton twirling, tap-dancing intermission entertainer.
Aadin Church, as a singer in the Apollo Theatre, offers the show-stopper is “You Send Me”. Anthony Bathory gives a perfect rendition of “La Bamba” as Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper’s “Chantilly Lace” is presented well by Stuart Dowling. Paul Constable is good as the nervous Clear Lake MC, and Michael Walmsley gives a solid performance as the DJ Hipockets Duncan. Ben Birchard, Len Ottesen and Kraig Waye are all good as Crickets and Clear Lake musicians.
The set and number of props incorporated are simpler than in 2003. This is probably a good move as it has allowed for fast scene changes. Costumes are better this time around with more realistic 1950’s apparel.
And equally as good are the hilarious 50’s commercials – I love it when the jingle singers promoting Astoria cigarettes sign off in a coughing fit.
Buddy ~ The Buddy Holly Story continues with eight shows a week until August 12 at Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend. Tickets are available at the Huron Country Playhouse box office at (519) 238-6000 or Drayton Entertainment at 1-888-449-4463.