Monday, September 21, 2015

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story

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).
Kennedy has also given the cast room to grow.  When Buddy (Brett Ambler) first appears, he’s young, naive, and frankly, musically embryonic.  When Ambler finally takes the stage at the “Winter Dance Party,” he has matured into a full fledged, confident, premiere performer.  Likewise with the Crickets (Matt Gnojek as Jerry on drums and Brian Jackson as Joe on bass).  They are older, wiser, better on their instruments, and maturing artistically, albeit in a different direction.  It’s quite a contrast to Act 1.  Kennedy has skillfully developed his characters before our eyes.

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).
Brian Murray (who doubles as a drink server before the show) is an amazing Big Bopper.  He rocks the house with Chantilly Lace, taking command of the stage for his big number.  Robert Johnson (Tyrone) brings his silky smooth vocals to the Apollo Theatre scene.  Krisangela Washington as Marlena Madison absolutely torches the stage with her rendition of Shout at the Apollo.  Alejandro Roldan does a smoking hot La Bamba as Ritchie Valens.  Murray, Johnson, Roldan and Washington could carry a show by themselves. They stand in the shadows until they get their moments in the sun, and those four moments in the sun are unforgettable.  

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.




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


  1. We went to see the Buddy Holly show last Saturday. It was very enjoyable.
    We are season ticket holders and have not seen a show that we didn't like.
    Their were a few that I probably wouldn't have gotten tickets but we went to see them and was pleasantly surprise how good they were. The food is very good with a good choice on the menu and the waiters are very pleasant, espically when that it is not the job of choice. The actors and actresses are very professional. We like the Boulder Dinner Theater very much. It is always a nice evening out.

  2. I agree. It's a great value for your entertainment dollar. Buddy Holly...great talent on that stage...

  3. My wife and I are visiting from Chicago and went to see Buddy last night with our friends and were totally blown away by this great production. You get to see the span of Budd's career from start to finish with the band evolving into what we all know today. If you go to see this I suggest you buckle your seatbelt for the second half because it is a wild and most enjoyable ride.

  4. My wife and I are visiting from Chicago and went to see Buddy last night with are friends. We were blown away by the great production. It's great to see the span of Buddy's career from start to finish and how he and his band evolved in such a short time to what we all know today. If you go to see this I suggest you buckle your seat belts for the second half because it is a wild and enjoyable ride.

  5. This is also a very good post which I really enjoyed reading. Brunch Theater