Written by: Alan Janes
Featuring songs by Buddy Holly & The Crickets
Company: BDT Stage
Venue: BDT Stage, 5501 Arapahoe Avenue, Boulder CO
Running Time: SHOW: 2 hours 45 minutes (7:45 PM to 10:30 PM, includes 20 minute intermission). Seating begins at 6:15 PM.
Date of Performance: Friday, September 18, 2015.
|Brett Ambler as Buddy Holly.|
Buddy Holly’s brief but stellar career has influenced a whole generation of musicians, including The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen. There is no dispute that he was a giant of rock and roll; Holly (1986) and his band, the Crickets (2012), have both been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.
Holly’s career was tragically short; he released his first song in April, 1956, and died in a plane crash on February 3, 1959. In less than three years, he had recorded over 100 songs, some of which many of us know by heart: Peggy Sue, Everyday, That’ll Be the Day, It’s So Easy, and Blue Suede Shoes, to mention a few.
BDT Stage is bringing Holly back for a posthumous encore with Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, playing through November 14. That’s important information. If you’re a rock and roll fan, this is a rare and entertaining opportunity to relive the birth of the genre. The script is historically accurate, the talent is first class, and the show is spectacular, so I’ll repeat the important part. You have until November 14 to get to BDT Stage to see Buddy Holly and the Crickets take the stage and take your breath away.
Director Wayne Kennedy has assembled a cast of Buddy Holly heroes; these actors/singers/dancers pay a terrific honor to Buddy’s life, work, and spirit. For his part, Kennedy puts all the pieces together. He’s got a rocking backup band, and for the first time in my memory, he puts them on stage instead of behind a wall. They seldom get the credit they deserve, but they show up in Act 2, orchestrating the best of Buddy and the “Winter Dance Party.” Thanks for bringing the orchestra out to meet us, Mr. Kennedy.
|Brian Jackson (Cricket/Joe) and Brett Ambler (Buddy Holly).|
Ambler is a spitting image of Buddy, and his vocals are often indistinguishable from the original. What Ambler adds is an unexpected wink and a smile, giving Buddy a human side that we never really knew. Ambler is convincing as a capable business guy, and as an artist who values his music more than his fame. Where he shines, though, is when he meets his future wife, Maria Elena (Sarah Grover). It’s love at first sight. Ambler turns on the charm and sweeps her off her feet. Ambler does this despite being a geeky, bespectacled oddity, and he does it as if he doesn’t realize that he’s got some baggage. Come to think of it, Ambler does the same thing to the audience. He wins us over despite his lack of a Rock Star appearance and demeanor.
What you might not expect, however, is how talented the secondary performers are here.
|Krisangela Washington (as Marlena Madison).|
Put the pieces together here, and you have a masterpiece piece of musical theater. When you have Neal Dunfee’s orchestra, Linda Morken’s 1950’s costumes, Amy Campion’s “jukebox” set, blistering lights by Brett Maughan, perky, and sometimes frenetic choreography by Jessica Hindsley, and Wayne Kennedy’s audio design and direction, you get the whole enchilada. Great music comes together in a true story done by a terrifically talented cast and crew.
Don McLean paid a musical tribute to Buddy with his 1971 hit American Pie. He was folding newspapers for his paper route when he heard that Holly’s plane had crashed:
But February made me shiver
With every paper I'd deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn't take one more step
I can't remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
Something touched me deep inside
The day the music died
The music may have died on February 3, 1959, but it has been resurrected by BDT Stage. To Don McLean’s classic tune we can now add another heart felt tribute to Buddy Holly. BDT Stage has honored him by doing what they do best. They brought Holly and his music back to life on their stage. And that is, indeed a very high honor.
There is ample free parking at the theater.
This show closes on November 14, 2015.
PHOTO CREDITS: BDT Stage
PRE/POST SHOW DINING RECOMMENDATION:
Dinner? Not an issue. It’s included in your ticket price. Menu here.
Producer: Michael J. Duran
Director/Audio Design: Wayne Kennedy
Music Director: Neal Dunfee
Technical Director: Jared Williams
Lighting Design: Brett Maughan
Scenic Design/Scenic Artist: Amy Campion
Choreographer: Jessica Hindsley
Costume Design: Linda Morken
Stage Manager: Seamus McDonough
Assistant Stage Manager: Paul Behrhorst
Buddy Holly: Brett Ambler
Crickets (Jerry): Matt Gnojek
Crickets (Joe): Brian Jackson
Norman Petty: Scott Beyette
Vi Petty: Amanda Earls
High Pockets Duncan: Brian Burron
Maria Elena: Sarah Grover
Apollo Performers: Robert Johnson (Tyrone), Krisangela Washington (Marlena Madison)
J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper): Brian Murray
Ritchie Valens: Alejandro Roldan
Conductor/Keyboards: Neal Dunfee
Guitars: Jon Stubs, Dave DeMichelis
Reeds: Matt Burchard, Otto Lee
Trumpet: Rob Reynolds, Rich Dunston
Trombone: Michael Hilton, Gail Harris
Bass: Carlton Bacon
Drums: Nick Gnojek, Dillon Kidd