BWW Interviews: BUDDY's Kurt Jenkins Just Wants You to Have Fun
BUDDY, THE Buddy Holly STORY, rocks its way to Saint Paul's Ordway Music Theater June 11 - 16, 2013, starring a pair of high-energy actors taking turns on covering the title character of this national touring company's production. Kurt Jenkins and Andy Christopher each play Buddy Holly and opposite performances the other portrays Tommy Allsup. BroadwayWorld.com had the opportunity to get to know Kurt Jenkins before he arrived in Saint Paul.
Jenkins, a Birmingham, Ala., native who said he's done his fair share of musical theatre but never studied it formally, rediscovered his passion for theatre after he submitted an audition via the Internet to play Buddy Holly in a production at the historic Ogunquit Playhouse in Ogunquit, Maine. That production brought the talented Southerner to the attention of the national touring company.
"It's a dream come true," said Jenkins. "A dream I didn't know I had." Jenkins, who has played guitar for 15 years and grew up exposed to the blues in his hometown, was not always familiar with Holly's music. He feels the rich heritage of the blues in his upbringing helped as he dug into Holly's music for the show. That music, Jenkins said, is not easy by any means.
"Buddy Holly has a specific style of playing guitar that you have to do or you lose authenticity," he said. Playing the musical legend takes a rock star presence, and skills like playing his guitar solos behind his head.
BUDDY, THE Buddy Holly STORY, takes the audience back in time to the rock and roll pioneer's beginnings before his big break opening for Elvis Presley in 1955 in Lubbock, Texas, where Holly grew up as Charles Hardin Holley. The story of his meteoric rise in fame, which included stints at the Apollo Theatre in New York City, the Ed Sullivan Show and numerous hits like "That'll Be the Day," and "Peggy Sue," all the way to his untimely death at age 22 in a plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa, are chronicled in this production. The acts are bookended by concert elements that take patrons back to the 50s.
"The last half of the second act... it's a rock show," said Jenkins. "There's no mistaking it for anything else." Jenkins feeds off the crowd and ramps up as he performs Holly's hits. "It's a really wonderful feeling."
While Jenkins said "Rave On" is extremely fun to sing and the climax of the show, his "flat out" favorite tune to play is "Not Fade Away" from his first Apollo Theatre show when Holly had to win over an all-black audience, or maybe "Rock Around with Ollie Vee."
After only two weeks on tour, Jenkins says the byproduct of doing this show that he "really, really enjoys," is seeing new parts of the country. After Saint Paul, he will be in Chicago, Virginia and his home state of Alabama, and then the tour goes and goes. It is an open-ended run with dates into spring of 2014 currently. Jenkins said as long as people want to see it, he'll be on stage.
"It's such a rewarding show," he said. "It never gets old."
With Buddy on stage all but two scenes during the show, playing 17 or 18 songs and having the majority of the lines, he said it can be difficult at times so having two actors share the role gives him a chance to conserve energy the nights he plays Allsup and then "blow it out" the nights he plays Buddy. He said the two actors, however, are completely different and you'll see a different show with each of them. Both equally as good, of course.
Jenkins wants the audience to be prepared to stand up and dance by the end of the show. "Be ready to have a good time," he said. "We don't let you not have a good time. It's a really, really fun show. If you're not having fun, there's something wrong with you!"