Theatre Mirror Reviews - "The Buddy Holly Story"

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note: entire contents copyright 2016 by Tony Annicone



"THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone



Theatre by the Sea's opening musical of their 83rd season is "The Buddy Holly Story." The show follows the life of the Texan guitarist from his beginnings with Buddy Holly and the Crickets in Lubbock, Texas to the launching of his solo career. It is told in two acts as a series of vignettes as well as concert renditions 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. 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 biggest hits in this show include, "Peggy Sue", "That'll Be the Day", "Oh Boy", "Heartbeat" and "Raining in My Heart." Directed by Richard Sabellico and musically directed by Maria Day, this high energy show enthralls the audience from start to finish with its leading man and the rest of this fabulously talented cast who not only sing, act and dance but play instruments, too. This stunning show is rewarded with a standing ovation. Holy mackerel, what a way to open a season.

The start of the first act depicts Buddy's rebellious nature until he figures out what he wants to do with his singing talent. The second half of the first act comes powerfully alive in the Apollo scene. The leading man is Michael Siktberg as Buddy Holly. He captures the essence of Buddy and his dance moves and guitar playing are wonderful, too. Buddy started out as a country singer and later rock and roll enticed him. Michael starts off as the green youngster who yearns to be a rock and roll star but definitely becomes one by the close of the show. Some of Michael's songs include "Words of Love", "Oh, Boy" and especially in the tender ballad "True Love Ways." He plays his acoustic guitar as he sings this tune to his beloved wife, Maria Elena. The final concert sequence stops the show with it power and punch as each of the musicians gets their moment to shine in the Clearlake concert.

Greg London as the local DJ, Hipockets Duncan in Lubbock who gets Buddy his first contract in Nashville with Decca Records. He does a terrific job as the blustery but kindly older man who gives Buddy a push in the right direction. Seth Eliser as Jerry Allison and Sam Sherwood as Joe B. Maudlin play Buddy's best friends and fellow Crickets. They not only play their instruments, sing and dance beautifully but give wonderful comic and dramatic performances, too. The break up of the group is excellently portrayed. Jerry's comic one liners are topnotch and Sam's comic Bass playing it hilarious, too.The Apollo singer, Shayla Simmons stops the show with her powerhouse voice in her gospel number, "Shout" while Apollo musicians Lamont Walker II and Sylvester McCracken III are also hilarious as they make fun of Buddy and the Crickets for being white boys.

Beatriz Naranjo is a spitfire as Maria Elena. She plays Buddy's wife who he marries after knowing her for five hours. She and Michael have great chemistry together as this couple. J.P. Ferragamo displays his powerful voice as Big Bopper in the "Chantilly Lace" number. He is quite the scene stealer in his red suit. Albert Jennings does a dynamite job as Ritchie Valens in "La Bamba" as he swivels his hips and does pelvic thrusts as he croons this song. Steve Gagliastro does an excellent job as Norm Petty, an innovative producer who gives Buddy and the Crickets their break by recording their songs in his backyard. Norm's conniving ways come out later in the show where he breaks up the group to keep most of the money for himself. Steve also does a bang up job on the trombone during the final concert scene. Norm's wife, Vi is excellently played by Maria Day who displays her brilliant comic acting as the long suffering wife who knows how to play the piano Celeste. She does double duty in the show as musical director, having taught all the excellent musical numbers to this talented cast. Christina Rose Rahn is a hoot as Mary Lou Sokolof, Miss Winter Beauty 1959 with her rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" with her many different hand gestures imaginable. Other comic performers include Michael Perrie Jr. as Tommy who plays guitar with the Crickets and is hilarious in the Apollo scene when he quails and quakes and Cody Knable as The MC at the Clearwater Concert. So for a powerhouse show with magnificent music and exuberant performances, be sure to catch "The Buddy Holly Story" at Theatre by the Sea. It's my 44th year coming to see terrific shows at Matunuck and this musical is one more feather in their cap.

THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY (1 to 19 June)
Theatre by the Sea, 364 Cards Pond Road, Matunuck, RI
1(401)782-8587 or www.theatrebythesea.com




THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide

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