BWW Review: BUDDY - THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY at Theatre By The Sea

BWW Review: BUDDY - THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY at Theatre By The Sea

Theatre By the Sea (TBTS) in Wakefield, RI (I would have thought Matunuck) opens its season with a rousing version of BUDDY-THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY, a jukebox musical in two acts with a book written by Alan Janes, and music and lyrics by a variety of songwriters, mostly of course, Buddy Holly. Based on the life and career of the early rock and roller, the musical hews more closely to Holly's actual life story than the 1978 film version, which starred Gary Busey, and follows Holly from his struggles to escape country music and establish himself as a rocker, to his untimely death in a plane crash in 1959.

What do you want first, the good news or the bad news? Ok, the good news: this show is unbelievably entertaining when the actors are singing. Michael Siktberg as Holly seemed to grow into the role right before our eyes. By the time he takes the stage of the Apollo Theater in Harlem with his back-up group the Crickets (Seth Eisler, Sam Sherwood, and Michael Perrie Jr.) at the conclusion of Act 1, Siktberg was in complete, full-on Holly, as Holly was in full-on rock star. But it wasn't Sikberg's Holly who first grabbed our attention at the Apollo-it was Shayla Simmons' nameless performer who kicked BUDDY into gear with a show-starting version of the Iseley Brother's "Shout." From my vantage point, I could see into the wings, and Simmons had the stagehands dancing. It made you wanna shout!

The second act also has a rock'em-sock'em finish, a recreation of Holly's last concert in Clear Lake, Iowa. Sikberg continues his excellence, but now the vastly entertaining "Big Bopper" (Jean Pierre Ferragama) and Ritchie Valens (Alber Jennings) join him with crazy good versions of "Chantilly Lace" and "LaBamba," respectively. They in turn join Siktberg's Holly in Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," which had the audience dancing in the seats. This entire segment is backed by over a dozen musicians and back up singers, many of whom we had seen in speaking roles before as DJs or record company executives. Apparently to be cast in this show an actor had to play a musical instrument.

This brings us to the bad news: the book. Maybe it suffered in comparison to Jersey Boys, which just passed through Providence in April and had a book nearly as good as the Four seasons' music, but while the actors were not singing, the show slowed down a bit. Fortunately, most of the show is music and the music is excellent. This is a very professional production with excellent musical talent and production values. Go see it.

A cabaret featuring the cast and staff follows weekend evening performances.

BUDDY-THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY runs Tuesdays through Sundays at THEATRE BY THE SEA, 364 Cards Pond Rd., Wakefield, RI 02879 until Sunday, June 19. Check their website for exact times. Tickets range from $47 to $67 and are available by calling (401) 782-8587 (TKTS) or online at boxoffice.tbts@gmail.com. The theater is handicapped accessible and has an accessible bathroom. You can even go in the heat; they have added air-conditioning!

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From This Author Larry O'Brien

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