BWW Review: The Show Must RAVE ON!: THE MUSIC OF BUDDY HOLLY at Omaha Community Playhouse
I could rave on and on about how fun it was to be outside the Omaha Community Playhouse enjoying the hits of Buddy Holly as only Billy McGuigan and his band can do. So I will.
It was a cool 76 degrees with a breeze. Cars parked in every other slot with each row staggered. Those who chose to sit out in the fresh air sat on lawn chairs on the driver's side of their vehicle. Those who opted to remain inside their vehicle. This made for unusual audience participation as people either applauded or used their hands to honk their horns. A few danced beside their vehicle. Those passing by on an evening stroll paused nearby to soak up the music. Those passers-by weren't afforded the pleasure of watching Billy as he performed his normal high energy antics. But those of us parked in the OCP parking lot had no problem seeing as the stage was built up high on scaffolding. OCP did an impressive job of making this novel outdoor concert work.
One thing that was a slight inconvenience at first was coming into the lot. All the usual driveways except for one were blocked off. You need to enter the OCP grounds by way of Cass Street. A booth was set up along this driveway where names of ticket holders were checked off. I had been skeptical about how ticket collection in an outdoor venue would work. This seems to do the trick.
Logistics aside, Billy McGuigan and his band were great. (Aren't they always?) Within a jam-packed 90 minutes they rocked and rolled through more than two dozen hits from the past, interspersed with anecdotal stories from Billy's life on the road.
The band, consisting of Billy's brothers Ryan on rhythm guitar and Matt on bass guitar, Philadelphia native Larell Ware on drums, Darren Pettit on saxophone and keyboard, and Max Meyer on lead guitar are good. Really good. No...make that great! Max Meyer's fingers gallop over those strings on his powder blue guitar. I'm not sure that there is a better guitarist in the Midwest. In "Bye, Bye, Love" I could pick up a hint of "Smoke on the Water" and "Stairway to Heaven." Anyone else? Sweet sax solos and tinkling keys by Darren Pettit and invigorating drum rolls by Larrel Ware embellish the set. At one point, Billy goes solo on his guitar, working up to a feverish pitch. Also very cool is Pettit manipulating his sax to imitate the sound of a woman's voice in "Chantilly Lace."
One thing about Buddy Holly and the hits of his era...you don't mistake the endings of the songs. They end with a flourish. There is something exciting about big finishes and Billy normally punctuates them with a jump. My favorite songs of the evening are almost all wrapped up in a terrific 15 minute "Oh Boy!" medley, which consists of great songs such as "I'm All Shook Up," "Blue Suede Shoes," "Chantilly Lace," and of course, "Johnny B Good" which features the vocals of the McGuigan brothers, Ryan and Matt, along with Darren Pettit.
As an encore, Billy introduced us to his own song based on his love for the music of Buddy Holly, "Me and Peggy Sue." Buddy Holly would approve.
So...something old mixed with something new dished up with great weather and a social distancing conscious environment prove that even a bug can't stop the music.
Performance dates: June 11-13, 14-21, and 26-28.
Photo credit: Analisa Swerczek