Saturday, September 26, 2015

The 39 Steps

Adapted by:  Patrick Barlow

Adapted fromThe 39 Steps (novel, 1915) by John Buchan and The 39 Steps (film, 1935) by Alfred Hitchcock.

Running Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes (includes 15 minute intermission).

Date of Performance:  Tuesday, September 22, 2015. 

The 39 Steps is a popular show in Colorado this season; I believe there are or have been at least three Colorado productions recently.  It’s a show that I hadn’t seen before, but now that I have, I understand why it’s a popular script.  It first opened in London in 2005, and just closed a few weeks ago after a nine year run (making it the 5th longest running show in West End history).  It was nominated for 6 Tony Awards when it opened on Broadway in 2008, and won two (Best Lighting Design and Best Sound Design).

This is a fast paced comedy/parody of the 100 year old source material (John Buchan’s 1915 novel and Alfred Hitchcock’s 1935 film).  It plays out as a melodrama, with nods to Hitchcock’s classics (“use the Rear Window,” “which way did he go?  North by Northwest”).  (Quotations are approximations.)  

For those who have neither read Buchan’s novel nor seen Hitchcock’s film, the “39 Steps” is a veiled reference to a German spy network, although there is little explanation in the script.  The clandestine operation accounts for a great deal of onstage mayhem, beginning with a murder in Richard Hannay’s (Chris Onken) apartment.  The victim, Annabella Schmidt (Rebecca Myers) is splayed out on Hannay’s lap with a knife in her back.  Thus begins Hannay’s flight and fight, as he is wanted for a murder he did not commit.
Rebecca Myers (Annabella and others).

Rebecca Myers’ demise early in the show is not the end of her story.  She is reincarnated for several other characters, using an array of wigs and some exquisite costumes.  Myers is surprisingly malleable, making each character she plays completely distinct from the others.  With each costume change and new incarnation, she is the company chameleon.  

There are roles for two clowns here, and both actors are well cast for the clowning. Levi Penley (Clown 1) is a strapping guy who often ends up in drag.  Surprisingly, he is quite fetching as a woman.  He adjusts quickly to his feminine roles,  speaking in a softer, higher voice to make the illusion seem real.  Penley cuts up as a clown must, getting some of the biggest laughs in the show.

Nick Madson is the other clown (Clown 2), and he is also an excellent choice for Director Ed Weathers.  Madson is also adept at changing roles and costumes in a blink of an eye, moving seamlessly from one character to the next.  Madson and Penley share the stage for one of the most hilarious moments in the show, as the pair chase Hannay through a train.  When Hannay ducks out of the car and clings to the side of the train, Madson and Penley follow him.  The pair puts on a fantastic pantomime of a high speed train chase while hanging on for dear life.  For me, it was the high point in the entire show.
Nick Madson (Clown 2 and others).

Chris Onken has the central role as Hannay, and he has the luxury of playing a single character in a play where the other actors must portray multiple personalities.  Still, the challenge for Onken is substantial.  He’s onstage for the entire performance, evading the authorities at every turn.  Onken has to navigate multiple crises, maximizing the dramatic tension each time.  He gets shot, but survives due to a stroke of incredible luck.  Onken manages to maximize audience empathy while pushing the limits of credibility.
Chris Onken (Hannay).

Ed Weather’s direction is imaginative and frenetic; the action is non-stop.  He has a talented cast and he puts them through a crazy endurance test of costume and character changes.  To his directing credit, they have responded admirably.

All of which is to say that The 39 Steps at the Butte Theatre is great fun.  The characters are zany, the actors are lovable, and the script is full of surprises.  If you’re not laughing, you may not have a pulse.  

The 39 Steps might just be the vehicle to revive melodrama as a genre.  It’s not just about a villain with a mustache tying the heroine to the train tracks.  Melodrama evokes strong characters, strong emotions, and often a triumph of good over evil.  Those are valuable qualities, but perhaps the best argument for reviving melodrama is its very high fun quotient.  The 39 Steps is ample proof of the fun one can have at a melodrama.

Before closing my comments on The 39 Steps, I must mention the venue:  The Butte Theatre, and formerly, the local Opera House.  It opened as the Butte Concert and Beer Hall in 1896.  Over the years, it has had several incarnations: the Butte Hall Dancing Academy, followed by The Watt Brothers Furniture Company, back to a theater, then into a skating rink, a secondhand store, a weapons cache (The Armory) and an auto garage.

Today it stands as a beautifully restored jewel of the high country, a state of the art theater with 185 seats and a resident theater company (Thin Air Theatre Company) since 2007.  With hardwood floors, period furnishings, comfortable seats, and nearly a 120 year history, the theater is a very special venue.  

If you haven’t had a chance to see a show at The Butte, check it out.  It's well worth a trip to Cripple Creek.  Take your slot machine or blackjack winnings for walk to 139 E. Bennett Avenue.  It’s just steps from the casinos, but it’s a whole other world.  


I hadn’t been to Cripple Creek for some years.  I’m happy to say that I broke even on this trip, but that would be because I didn’t have time to sit down at a blackjack table.  Next time.

Cripple Creek is approximately one hour from Colorado Springs, and about two hours from Denver.  It's one of the reasons we live in Colorado.  It's a historic mountain mining town, and a wonderful three season mountain drive.  It's one of only three gaming towns in Colorado (the other two being Central City and Blackhawk), but it offers much more than slot machines.  If you haven't been there lately, check out Thin Air Theatre Company and the Butte.  You'll enjoy the show, and you might even take some extra cash home with you.

Free parking is available on surrounding streets and in various casino parking lots.  

This show closes on September 26, 2015.

PHOTO CREDITSThin Air Theatre Company



There are numerous gambling and dining choices in Cripple CreekThin Air Theatre Company has generously provided a list of dining options on its web page.  We stopped at McGill’s Pint & Platter.  I don’t recommend it, as the food was below average.


Producers:  Chris Armbrister & Mickey Burdick

Director: Ed Weathers

Set/Lighting Design: Mickey Burdick

Assistant Technical Director:  JT Rider

Costume Design:  Nancy Hankin

Stage Manager: Tom Mosher


Richard Hannay:  Chris Onken

Annabella Schmidt:  Rebecca Myers

Clown 1:  Levi Penley

Clown 2:  Nick Madson

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Outside Mullingar

L-R:  Chris Kendall (Tony), Timothy McCracken (Anthony), Emily Paton Davies (Rosemary) & Billie McBride (Aoife).

Playwright:  John Patrick Shanley

Venue:  Carsen Theatre, Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut Street, Boulder, CO.

Running Time: 90 minutes, no intermission.

Date of Performance:  Sunday, September 20, 2015. 

John Patrick Shanley is a somewhat unusual writer; his academic record is rather sketchy.  From the program:

“John Patrick Shanley is from the Bronx.  He was thrown out of St. Helena’s kindergarten.  He was banned from St. Anthony’s hot lunch program for life.  He was expelled from Cardinal Spellman High School.  He was placed on academic probation by New York University and instructed to appear before a tribunal if he wished to return.  When asked why he had been treated this way by all these institutions, he burst into tears and said he had no idea.”

Or, one could say, the young Mr. Shanley was a typical Irish kid.  Rebellious and misunderstood.

Despite his academic challenges, those who doubted Mr. Shanley’s literary credentials must now be enjoying heaping portions of crow at every meal.  Shanley’s revenge is that he is living well as a writer of Irish tales, including Outside MullingarHe has won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2005 (for Doubt:  A Parable), a Tony Award for Best Play (also for Doubt:  A Parable), and an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 1988 (for Moonstruck).  Not a bad résumé, considering he flunked kindergarten.  

Shanley’s Outside Mullingar is a near perfect mix of love story, comedy and drama.  “Near perfect” because the story takes an improbable twist at the end; one more revision to the last draft should have tweaked that twist.  Even so, Outside Mullingar captures the human spirit of the rural Irish characters as they deal with lives that are limited to live just outside of a small Irish town (Mullingar).

Two gates.  That’s what it takes Anthony (Timothy McCracken) to get from town to his farm property.  Anthony’s aging father sold a small sliver of the farm to his neighbors (Aoife and her daughter Rosemary) for 200 pounds sterling.  That sliver of land includes the only access to Anthony’s farm.  He has to enter, stop at the gate to the lost sliver, drive though the gate, then stop again at the gate that is the entrance to his farm.  It’s not just annoying.  In bad weather (it rains a lot), it’s cold, wet, and aggravating.

That small sliver of land, transferred to the Muldoons, makes the farm a landlocked island.  Anthony’s father, Tony (Chris Kendall) is considering selling the property, but without access from the road, it is virtually unmarketable.  Nobody will buy a piece of land to which they have such limited legal access.

Despite this set up, Shanley’s script is (fortunately) not about Irish real estate law.  It’s about the relationships between the Muldoons and the Reillys.  It is those relationships that make Outside Mullingar so preciously simple and poignant.  Shanley has put us in a small place with a small number of characters going through small, slow changes that add up to a final blowout supercharged conclusion.

Billie McBride (Aoeife, pronounced eefa here) is the perfect cranky and witty little old lady with a disputed sliver of land.  McBride has a talent for British and Irish accents, making her both credible and lovable here.  She’s a perfect foil for Tony (Chris Kendall), taking verbal jabs at him over the right of way to the property.  

Kendall, for his part, is on fire as Tony.  He’s funny, he’s vulnerable, and he’s a charming old coot.  His last scene is perhaps the best work I’ve seen from Kendall.  He’s dying, and he makes a death bed conversion to reconcile with his son Anthony.  It’s an extended dose of sincerity, love, and compassion, and Kendall’s delivery lands on the stage like the thud of 100 pounds of Irish potatoes hitting the floor.  I was watching the audience reaction.  Some were wiping tears from their eyes as Kendall poured his heart out on the BETC stage.  

Timothy McCracken, Emily Paton Davies.
Once Tony and Aoeife move on, though, the stage belongs to Timothy McCracken and Emily Paton Davies.  The two have a full blown confrontation over how things got so bad between them.  It’s contrived, but it has enough energy and emotion to put the us on the edge of our seats.  Paton Davies traps McCracken and then rips him up.  McCracken, for his part, slumps away from confrontation until he can stand it no more.  

Unlike most Irish plays, Outside Mullingar permits a happy ending.  The passion and chemistry between the lovers/fighters is palpable.  Paton Davies fights for what she wants, reminding me of a line from A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

“Though she be but little, she is fierce!”  

Paton Davies is beyond fierce, never letting up until she breaks Anthony down.  Unrelenting and yelling, she forces McCracken to speak the line that keeps this script from reaching perfection.  (You have to buy a ticket to hear it yourself.)  Once he breaks through the shell he has created for himself, McCracken is able to admit his feelings for Rosemary.  McCracken and Paton Davies have one of the longest, tightest, most electric embraces I’ve seen on stage.  Their passions unleashed, they can finally act on their feelings.

Director Rebecca Remaly has brilliantly paced this production; she slowly builds the story until it explodes in the final scene.  Remaly’s touch gives Paton Davies the permission and the mission to be as strong and as bold as a woman can be.  I particularly liked the scene where Paton Davies and McCracken split a bottle of Guinness Stout.  It’s an Irish institution, and it was a tenderly executed icebreaker for the pair.

The set design is functional, and Set Designer Ron Mueller makes a point with his two different kitchen sets.  Anthony’s is bachelor pad chaotic; Rosemary’s is feminine and spotless.  Shannon Johnson’s lighting design and Jenn Calvano’s sound design provide the appropriate environment for the different times of day and different weather onstage.  Gabriella Cavallero coached the cast on their Irish brogues, with excellent results.

I’m well aware of the criticism of Shanley’s script; I just disagree.  I think it’s a poignant emotional jewel that could have been better.  For those who say it’s not authentic because there’s not enough swearing an drinking for an Irish play, I say “poppycock.”  Irish stereotypes are exactly that; they contain a measure of truth but are hardly universally true.  Shanley’s characters are real people whose lives are not lived in a pub with a pint.  Rather, they live in harsh conditions, with limited experiences, and often in relative poverty.  

And those, frankly, are MY kind of people.  


Free parking is available behind the Dairy Center and on surrounding streets.  There is construction going on at The Dairy, as they renovate the property.  The temporary main entrance is on the west (back) side of the building.  After entering, go down the long hall…the box office will be on your left.

This show closes on October 11, 2015.


Chautauqua Dining Hall.

We made reservations at the Chautauqua Dining Hall, a Boulder tradition since 1898.  The restaurant is run by Three Leaf Farms (TLF), and 100% of the TLF harvest is used in their affiliated restaurants.  Seasonal and traditional favorites are served in the dining hall and on the wrap around porch.  We were lucky and got a table on the porch.

Chautauqua Dining Hall is on the grounds of Chautauqua Park in Boulder.  The park is at the foot of the Flatirons foothills, and conveniently located near the far west end of Baseline Boulevard.

We arrived about 1:30 on a Sunday afternoon, so the dining choices were from the brunch menu.  I had the Croque Madame sandwich and an Upslope lager craft beer.  Both were perfect for the late summer day on the porch.

Parking at Chautauqua is awful; plan ahead for a 5-10 minute walk from wherever you can find a place to park.  Reservations recommended.


Director:  Rebecca Remaly

Dramaturg:  Heather A. Beasley

Dialect Coach:  Gabriella Cavallero

Lighting Design: Shannon Johnson

Sound Design:  Jenn Calvano

Scenic Design:  Ron Mueller

Costume Design:  Katie Horney

Stage Manager: Miranda Baxter


Rosemary:  Emily Paton Davies

Tony:  Chris Kendall

Aoife:  Billie McBride

Anthony:  Timothy McCracken

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Lookingglass Alice

I Adapted by:  David Catlin

From the works of Lewis Carroll

Produced in association with: The Actors Gymnasium

CompanyDenver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company

VenueStage Theater, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, 1345 Champa Street, Denver, CO.

Running Time: 90 minutes, no intermission.

Date of Performance:  Saturday, September 19, 2015. 

I try not to do spoilers, so nothing that follows will expose too much of the plot of Lookingglass Alice.  That’s less because I avoid revealing too much, but more because I don’t know how I could possibly do so.  The plot here, like Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and his follow up Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, are works of abundant nonsense.  That’s not a criticism; it’s Lewis Carroll’s style.  In that regard, Lookingglass Theatre Company’s adaptation is true to the original.

Still, a story told in nonsense and gibberish can be a challenge for adults; kids may need extra help getting the story straight.  Here’s a few pre-show topics you might want to bring up before taking your kids to Lookingglass Alice:

1.  Lewis Carroll is a nom de plume; his real name was Charles Dodgson.  

2.  Lewis Carroll/Charles Dodgson appears in Lookingglass  Alice as a character.

3.  Parts of the story track well with Caroll’s work, so being familiar with that work is helpful.

4.  Carroll/Dodgson leads Alice to the rabbit hole, and she goes down it, just as in the original story.

5.  Once Alice (Lauren Hirte/Lindsey Noel Whiting) goes down the rabbit hole, the story is structured like a chess game, with some of the characters representing chess pieces.

5.  Alice wants to be a queen, but to do so, she must move as a chess piece (a pawn, actually) through 8 squares on the chess board.  She meets other characters on each square, and must interact with them before moving on.

6.  In chess, a pawn that moves through the entire board is usually promoted to queen.

With that as background, kids will probably be able to follow the story.  Even without some pre-show preparations, though, kids of all ages will be astounded by the acrobatics of the cast.  

At least partly inspired by Cirque du Soleil, Lookingglass Alice is a Master Class in the power of technical innovations and visual surprises.  The actors move with the grace of a ballet dancer, the strength of a weightlifter, and the courage of a trapeze artist.  I doubt there are actors anywhere in better physical condition than the cast of Lookingglass Alice.  

Parts of Lookingglass Alice are absolutely stunning.  An actor suddenly suspended upside down approximately 30 feet over the stage is difficult to accept.  My first thought was “no…it must be a mannequin.”  Wrong.  “Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.”  Did he ever.  It’s a heart stopping moment of utter horror.  The Red Queen (Molly Brennan) makes a grand entrance, and she is, shall we say, imposing.
The Red Queen (Molly Brennan)

The role of Alice is played alternately by Lauren Hirte and Lindsey Noel Whiting, presumably due to the enormous physical challenge of the role.  Hirte was Alice at the performance I attended, and she is astonishingly strong.  She is also very agile; her aerial scenes are beautifully crafted works in a suspended alternate reality.  She’s onstage for the entire performance, and she makes the physical challenges appear effortless.

Samuel Taylor plays the White Knight, perhaps the most “normal” character onstage with Alice.  He plays the White Knight with a dose of self deprecating humor, getting the biggest laughs in the show.  If you bring your kids (or grandkids), they will very much appreciate his frequent but tardy command:  “DISMOUNT!”

The rest of the cast (Adeoye, Molly Brennan and Kevin Douglas) bring a hallucinogenic chaos to the proceedings.   Adeoye and Douglas stand out with multiple flying folding chairs, picking them out of the air and racing around the stage with them.

There’s a lot to recommend in Lookingglass Alice, and for anyone interested in new, creative ways to tell a story, it is definitely a “must see.”  Short of Cirque de Soleil, you will not find anything as inventive, as innovative, and as visually stunning as Lookingglass Alice.

There was, however, a glitch in the performance that raised some eyebrows, mine included.  Lookingglass Alice depends heavily on technical effects to make everything work.  Technical effects can be very powerful, but if they don’t work as planned, the results can be embarrassing at best, and dangerous at worst.  In this case, the glitch literally stopped the show.

In the very first scene of Lookingglass Alice, a technical effect went awry.  It was not,
Lookingglass Alice
fortunately, one that involved the safety of the actors.  Rather, it was a set piece that failed to perform as planned.  It was part of a delicate illusion; when the set piece failed, the illusion failed.  The audience was taken out of the story for 5-8 minutes and the actors were ordered to clear the stage while stage hands worked to fix the problem.

I understand that sometimes things go wrong; I’ve seen it happen before.  However, this glitch raises some concerns:
  • We had seats at the Saturday evening performance at the very back of the room (Level 2, Row J, center); those seats were priced at $56.00. For that price, my expectations are high.  Glitches are difficult to accept.
  • Lookingglass Alice is driven by technical effects, many of which impact the safety of the actors.  The rigging that failed with the set piece was not a safety hazard.  Even so, such a failure brings into question other technical effects and rigging that could result in a much more serious problem.  When actors are performing 30 feet above the stage without a net, safety is paramount.
To the eternal credit of the cast and crew, the problem was resolved and the show, as it must, went on without a hitch.  They displayed the highest level of professionalism under circumstances that they (hopefully) rarely encounter.  

I do hope that this incident will cause the company to redouble its efforts to insure that all effects and rigging are scrutinized and tested prior to performances to insure the safety of the cast and crew.  

Despite my alarm at the failure of a set piece, Lookingglass Alice is a vibrant show with a tremendous cast.  The audience is left with this thought at the end:

“Life, what is it but a dream?”

Indeed.  Sometimes the dream comes true, but it turns out to be less than we expected.  That’s the message for Alice; her dream to be a queen didn’t turn out as she thought it would.  So it is with our own dreams.  The reality is sometimes harsher than we expect.


Event parking at the DCPA garage is $12.00.  Metered street parking in the vicinity is rare.  Although there may be surface lots available nearby for less than $12.00, it’s hard to beat the convenience of the DCPA garage.  Spend the money.  It will save you time and what could be a fairly long walk to and from the theater. 

Lookingglass Alice is arguably a children’s show, and there is no question that children of all ages will enjoy the circus atmosphere, the amazing gymnastics, and the colorful costumes.  However, younger children may have trouble following the script.

This show closes on October 11, 2015.

PHOTO CREDITS:  Denver Center for the Performing Arts and Lookingglass Theatre Company (Liz Lauren, photographer).



We ate at Rodizio’s Brazilian Steakhouse, 1801 Wynkoop Street, Denver.  A full Rodizio is
$34.99 for dinner, less if you just want the salad bar.  It’s a traditional Brazilian steakhouse, with assorted meats delivered on skewers to your table by the gauchos.  It’s essentially a steak buffet, but the food comes to you.  Does it get better than that?  Menu here.  

Rodizio’s is about a 10 minute trip to/from the theater, using the 16th Street Mall shuttle bus (free).  If you park at the DCPA garage, it’s a short (2 blocks) walk to 16th Street to get the shuttle, and another block or two from the Wynkoop shuttle stop.

Reservations are recommended.  (303) 294-9277.


Director:  David Catlin

Director of Production:  Jeff Gifford

Technical Director: Ben Dawson

Lighting Design: Christine A. Binder

Sound Design:  Ray Narelli

Scenic Design:  Daniel Ostling

Choreographer:  Sulvia Hernandez-DiStasi

Costume Design:  Mara Blumenfeld

Stage Manager: Tess Golden

Assistant Stage Manager:  Kurt Van Raden


Cheshire Cat and Others:  Adeoye

Red Queen and Others:  Molly Brennan

Mad Hatter and Others:  Kevin Douglas

Alice:  Lauren Hirte, Lindsey Noel Whiting

White Knight:  Samuel Taylor

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