by Beki Pineda
BUDDY – The Buddy Holly Story – Written by Alan Jones; Music by Buddy Holly and others; Directed by Wayne Kennedy. Produced by BDT Stage (5501 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder) through January 28, 2023. Tickets available at 303-449-6000 or BDTStage.com.
As jukebox musicals go, this is one of the best. It concentrates on the music while telling the story of Texas-born Buddy Holly. His short three-year career is chronicled in broad strokes, emphasizing his performing and writing talent while touching on the high points of his personal life with humor and understanding. These include his relationships with his unseen Mother, the Crickets (his backup band from the beginning), his managers, and finally his wife. And his fans.
BDT is fortunate to have found the talented Brett Ambler for the first production of this show in 2015 and to be able to cast him as Buddy in this remount. He brings a physicality and sound that rings authentic. He has that joyful look in his eye of someone who is confident in his talent and in his ability to control his life. There is no hesitation when he meets his wife-to-be Maria Elana and convinces her to marry him five hours later. He is emotionally devastated when the Crickets decide to stay in Texas rather than continue touring. However, he carries on with new musical buddies without missing a beat. His legend is solidified by his early accidental death. We’ll never know how his music might have changed and influenced even further those singers following in his footsteps.
BDT is fortunate as well in getting three additional talented performers to join the production. Brian Murray is the epitome of J.P. Richardson known professionally as The Big Bopper. He had the whole audience echoing “Oh, Baby, you know what I like” and joining in singing “Chantilly Lace,” his signature piece. Also present for the final concert was Richie Valens, brought to sexy life by Alejandro Roldan. His rendition of “La Bamba’ had the house rocking. A BDT favorite – Anna Marie High – comes back to do a soulful turn as the crooning MC at the Apollo Theatre, singing a rendition of “Hound Dog” that put Elvis to shame. You begin to see the kind of talent that has been collected for this production.
They are all supported and surrounded by eleven more cast members who fill in the crucial roles to tell the story and bring the music to life. Neal Dunfee leads a seven-piece backup band that supports the actors on stage who bring their own instrumental talent to the forefront. We have guitars (electric and acoustic), mandolins, bass, piano, drums – on stage performing live throughout the performance.
This is a real labor of love for all involved – including the audience who sported broad smiles of recognition as songs began and whose toes were tapping throughout the evening. How is it possible to remember these lyrics from the 50’s? How is it possible not to?
Thank you, BDT, for this tribute to a musical legend and a Blast from the Past!
A WOW factor of 8.5!!