The Buddy Holly Story is a true celebration of an unlikely rock 'n' roll star in this wildly entertaining crowd-pleaser of a show. At Maine State Music Theater on opening night, it was hard to decide where to look. Was this a group of superb musicians also performing as actors? This reviewer watched hands plucking, playing and was breathless that they did all of it. Thankfully for the crowd, this cast was flawless, acting, playing and bringing each part to life with infectious energy.
Director/Choreographer/Musical Director Angela Howell did a herculean job of balancing human drama with exciting music, She never allowed her audience to lose touch with the fact that these were real people. She led her cast to sensitive performances while featuring these multi-talented instrumentalists. Then, as icing on the cake, she leads many sequences from the keyboards, in the part of Vi Petty. Triple Brava to a triple threat.
This sensational production at Maine State Music Theater pulls out all the stops. It is a gift, with delightful visuals and boy howdy can everyone sing. The cast members play several instruments, sing and dance, and often juggle double or triple roles.
“The Buddy Holly Story” is the story of a young person who did what he loved, and did it big, loud and with a boyish and rambunctious energy.
Yes, Buddy Holly was a rock 'n' roll pioneer who helped shape the sound of modern music for generations. Yes, he was a creative genius. Yet the charm of this production is its ability to take you back- to sit you down in front row at the Apollo, the grange in Lubbock, Texas and in that final audience in Clear Lake when Buddy, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens take their final bows.
Andrew Harvey (Buddy Holly) gives everything - from that gawky kid in Texas to a determined yet always endearing young person with faith in his own dreams. He brings it all selling and drawing the audience into the memorable music, and does it with a charm that kept the audience in the palm of his hands. Buddy Holly is shown not only as a star rising -he’s a kid whose mother calls to be sure her skinny boy remembers to eat. He’s a dreamer who falls in love fast, a stubborn perfectionist, and a gamechanger for rock and roll.
The Big Bopper, Jayson Elliott , explodes onto the stage in the Clear Lake Concert singing “Chantilly Lace” and leaves folks wanting more- and that grin! Then there is Diego Guevara is Ritchie Valens, whose “La Bamba” at the Clear Lake Concert is a showstopper – and a heart breaker. When the audience, who fell hard for the sassy kid, learns that he was only 17 at the time of the plane crash late that night, there was an audible gasp in the darkened house.
The Crickets, Joe B. Maudlin, and Jerry Allison, Ken Sandberg, Noah Berry and Mike Dorsey are perfect as the old friends and partners and add a touch of mischief. Noah Berry on his bass delights with some acrobatics while playing his bass in some scene-stealing moments,
Sarah Miramontes is endearing as Maria Elena Santiago Holly. (Word is she makes EQUITY after this show- welcome Sarah!!) She also steps in as one of the Snowbirds in the Clear Lake Concert. On an historical note, the real-life Maria Elena learned of the death of her beloved husband on the radio- and she lost their pregnancy from shock. This tragic footnote caused the FAA to make a new ruling that family members must be notified before any names are released in the press.
Then there is the famous Apollo Concert scene, hilarious as Troy Valjean Rucker and Jannie Jones meet the very white Crickets and prepare for the audience to react badly. Jannie Jones solo “Shout” had the house on its feet with her powerhouse performance. And OH, that red dress.
A juke box musical can’t work without a strong supporting cast, and in this case each cast member is stellar. With many stand-outs it becomes hard to cover and not miss something but this reviewer is going to try. There’s Scott Wakefield as Texas DJ Hipockets this man can play and charm. Sarah Hund in the screamingly funny “ America, the Beautiful” knocked the parody out of the park. Luke Darnell as Norman Petty; Angela C. Howell as Vi Petty; and David Girolmo Murray Deutch, Marriel Boyd, Hailey Aviva and Adam LaSalle round out the dynamite ensemble, as actors and as singers and musicians they all shine.
There are moments here that make you laugh, moments that make you forget that you are witnessing the literal swan songs of three performers that were just kids who were about to lose their lives and still influence music for generations.
During his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Bob Dylan paid tribute to his first idol, who walked so he could run. “If I was to go back to the dawn of it all, I guess I’d have to start with Buddy Holly. From the moment I first heard him, I felt akin. I felt related, like he was an older brother. I even thought I resembled him. Buddy played the music that I loved – the music I grew up on: country western, rock ‘n’ roll, and rhythm and blues.” MSMT, Curt Dale Clark and crew have honored that legacy proudly.
I’ll end with someone else’s words. Sometimes the best comments come from the audience, From Liza Keene “The Buddy Holly Story at MSMT is one of, if not the best live performance I have ever seen. It was an incredibly immersive experience, I felt like I was there, at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, at the theatre in Clear Lake, IA. I actually felt like I had traveled back in time. It.Was.Amazing, SO amazing that I hope to go back to see it again. Highly recommend!’
The cast for MSMT’s revival of BUDDY: The Buddy Holly Story include Andrew Harvey in the title role of Buddy Holly, Diego Guevara as Ritchie Valens and Jayson Elliott reprising his role at MSMT in 2014, Big Bopper. Also featured in the cast/on stage band are Hailey Aviva, Noah Berry, Justin Marriel Boyd, Luke Darnell, Mike Dorsey, David Girolmo, Angela Howell, Sarah Hund, Jannie Jones, Adam Lasalle, Sarah Miramontes, Troy Valjean Rucker, Ken Sandberg and Scott Wakefield.
MSMT’s production and creative team of BUDDY: The Buddy Holly Story: Angela Howell (Director, Music Director, Choreographer), Donavan Dolan (Production Stage Manager), Charles Kading (Scenic Design), Ryan Joyner (Projections), Annalise Caudle (Lighting), Shannon Slaton (Sound Design), Jane Alois Stein (Costume Design), Kevin Foster (Wig and Hair Design).
Tickets for BUDDY: The Buddy Holly Story, and all MSMT productions, can be purchased only by calling the Box Office at 207.725.8769 or by visiting www.msmt.org.
The Buddy Holly Story will rock the stage from June 28-July 15 at MSMT’s Pickard Theater on the Bowdoin College campus, 1 Bath Road, Brunswick. 207-725-8769. www.msmt.org