BWW Review: BUDDY-THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY at Dutch Apple Dinner Theater
Buddy-The Buddy Holly Story claims to be" the most successful rock n' roll musical of all time", and with good reason. It highlights the main events in the last three years of the singer's life, during which he went from local country singer, to rock 'n roll pioneer, to cultural icon. Throw into the mix, more than a dozen classics hits, played live by the actors on stage, and you get a fun and energetic night of entertainment.
Kyle Jurassic plays Holly with a sense of confidence and independence. Jurassic's impressive guitar licks really help enhance the transformation. His lanky frame and thick glasses highlight the fact that this was a musician who became a star based on his talents, not necessarily his looks. Instead, Holly's distinct appearance emphasizes the fact that he was a free-spirit, refusing to bow to 1950's conformity.
Jonah M. Martin and Ben Hill play Joe Maudlin and Jerry Allison, respectively. They play Buddy's friends and the original members of his band, The Crickets. They are excellent musicians and do a great job conveying a sense of playfulness and energy. It was interesting to see their personalities evolve from local Texas boys to national celebrities.
Holly's story is told through several vignettes that recall important events in his rise to fame. Memorable scenes include his interactions with Texas DJ and early supporter Hipockets Duncan (played humorously by Dale Givens), meeting and recording his biggest hits with manager, Norman Petty (Seth Garrett Antes), and a memorable appearance at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. These events bring to life some of the key events that led to Holly's meteoric rise,
The second act introduces Maria Elena Santiago (Danielle Poznanovic), a Puerto Rican receptionist, and the love of Buddy's life. She quickly becomes his supportive and caring wife in a case of love at first site. When things turn sour with his manager and band mates, Holly is forced to go on the road to make ends meet. The final half hour or so of the show is a recreation of his final concert with Richie Valens (Nathaniel Burich) and the Big Bopper (Mike Brennan) that took place just prior to the three of them getting on that charter plane that tragically ended their short lives.
One of the things to understand about this show is it prioritizes celebrating Holly's music over explaining what made him tick. By focusing only on the final three years of his life, we get little idea of how he got so interested in music, or why rock 'n roll was so important to him. There also seems to be no characterization to explain why Buddy liked playing what was considered "Black music" or fell head over heels for a Hispanic girl. Such a level of multicultural acceptance and appreciation would be considered pretty rare in 1950's Texas. It deserves mention. Such concerns are a flaw of the script, not necessarily Dutch Apple's production.
What the show may lack in characterization, it makes up for in musicality. The immediacy of Jurassic and friends playing their instruments on stage brings raw energy and vitality to the theater. Audience toe-tapping evolved into full-fledged dancing in the aisles by the end of the show. Buddy-The Buddy Holly Story is a great celebration of the one of rock 'n roll's true pioneers.