Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Buddy Holly Story"

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entire contents copyright 2007 by Tony Annicone

"The Buddy Hololy Story"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Foothill Theatre's current show is "Buddy:The Buddy Holly Story". The show follows the life of the Texan guitarist from his beginnings with Buddy Holly & the Crickets in Lubbock to the launching of his solo career. It is told in two acts with a series of vignettes as well as concert style rendition of his songs, featuring over twenty of them. The show concludes with the final Winter Dance Party Tour on February 2, 1959 at the Surf Ballroom in Clearlake, Iowa. After midnight Buddy breaks his promise to his pregnant wife not to fly as he and two head-liners board a small plane and fly off into a blizzard only to crash an hour later into a ploughed field. The accident killed Buddy, the Big Bopper and 17 year old Ritchie Valens in a tragedy that snatched away three of the most dynamic talents the world had known in what is called, "the day the music died." Some of Buddy Holly's greatest hits in this show include, "Peggy Sue", "That'll Be The Day", "Oh, Boy", "Heartbeat" and "Raining in My Heart". Directed by Jason Southerland and musically directed by Jeff Bellin, this high energy show enthralls the audience from start to finish with its fabulous leading man and the rest of this talented cast who not only sing, dance and act but most of them play instruments, too. This stunning show is rewarded with a standing ovation before it actually ends, prompting an encore by the cast which leads to dancing in the aisles and another standing ovation at its final conclusion. Holy mackerel, what a dynamite performance. Bravo.

The fantastic leading man playing Buddy Holly, is Travis Poelle. He captures the essence and vocals of Buddy perfectly as well as his dance moves and guitar playing. Travis starts out as the green youngster who yearns to be a rock & roll star but definitely becomes one by the close of the show. Although Travis has to portray Buddy's vocal style, his excellent tenor voice shines through in various numbers and especially in the tender ballad "True Love Ways" which is sung to Buddy's wife, Maria, while Travis plays his acoustic guitar.

Jeff Bellin not only music directed this show and plays piano in the concert segment but also appears in the show as the local DJ, Hipockets Duncan in Lubbock who gets Buddy his first contract in Nashville with Decca records. He does a great job as the blustery but kindly older man who gives Buddy a push in the right direction. Matt DeAngelis and Jaron Vesely play Jerry and Joe, Buddy's best friends and fellow Crickets. Matt plays the drums with Jaron on string bass. They not only play their instruments, sing and dance beautifully but give wonderful comic and dramatic performances, too.( Jaron is a hoot as the Clearlake MC who cajoles the audience members.) Matt Wolpe plays Tommy, the 4th Cricket playing the guitar and dancing with Travis and in the final concert scene, he does an awesome job on percussion. Spiff Wiegand plays the hard ass Decca Producer, the congenial NY producer and at the Winter Concert does a dynamite guitar rendition and one point plays it behind his back. The phenomenal Apollo Singer is played by A'lisa D. Miles who knocks everyone's socks off with her rendition of "Party" which was written for this show. This gospel song soars off the charts with her powerful voice and her comic acting in this scene where she meets these white boys is hilarious, too.

Steve Gagliastro does a wonderful job as Norm Petty, an innovative producer who gives Buddy and the Crickets their break by recording their songs in his backyard. His conniving ways come out later in the show where he breaks the group up to keep most of the money for himself. (Steve does a dynamite job on the trombone in the final concert scene.) His wife, Vi is well played by Sarah Corey who gets to show her comic acting as the long suffering wife who knows how to play the piano and the Celeste, But it is as Mary Lou Sokolof, Miss Winter Beauty 1959 that she garners much laughter with her rendition of The Star Spangled Banner sung in every different key imaginable. (Sarah has an excellent soprano voice which peaks through every now and then in this hilarious song.) Mike Jansen and Eli Schneider are brilliant in their roles of The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens. Mike sings "Chantilly Lace" in his basso profundo voice while Eli sings "La Bamba" in his powerful voice while swiveling his hips. Brett Marynn Wulfson plays Maria Elena, Buddy's wife who he marries after only knowing her for five hours. She also does a dynamite job as the trumpet player in the Winter Concert Scene. 17 year old high school senior Abby Leigh Rose plays Shirley, the Brooklyn accented secretary who puts Jerry in his place when he says he wants to marry her. She also shows off her topnotch singing and dancing ability throughout the show. (Abby is under the watchful eye of Andrew Lloyd Webber who recognizes this young girl's tremendous talent at an early age.) Jeff Watson-Oehling is the Clearlake Bass Player during the final concert scene. So for a powerhouse show filled with magnificent music, be sure to catch "Buddy:The Buddy Holly Show". Tell them Tony sent you to Foothills Theatre in Worcester.

Foothills Theatre, 100 Front Street, Worcester, MA
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"The Buddy Holly Story" (1 - 25 March)
100 Front Street, WORCESTER MA
1 (508) 754-4018

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide