buddy holly review

NY Theatre Guide

Theatre Review: ‘Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story’

at MusicalFare Theatre

Posted By: Anthony Vitello Jron: February 09, 2015

There are plenty of instances where musical icons lost their lives too early. More often than not alcohol and drugs are the culprit and a certain amount of resentment  at the wasted life (and talent) sets in to the audience. With no such dark cloud hanging over its head, Musicalfare Theatre was able to showcase the tragically short career of a musical icon in its production of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story. Directed by Paschal Frisina III and written by Alan Janes, Buddy Holly, the man and the musician, is given a warm tribute in a rocking show!

The play opens with a 19 year-old Buddy Holly and the Crickets filling a live radio slot with DJ Hipockets Duncan, a wise on-air disc jockey acting as Holly’s first mentor. Buddy is a teenage musical rebel and defies the standards of 1956 Lubbock, Texas by shunning his country western roots for rock and roll. Holly eventually signs to a label with NYC connections and becomes famous.

Buddy’s eccentricities shaped the play and had a direct impact upon each character in Holly’s circle. He meets a girl at the record company and proposes to her within hours. He obsesses in the studio to the point of exhaustion. And he alienates his band mates, forcing him to break ties with the Crickets and his contract, a detail that has a direct effect on his touring plans. Holly’s death (spoiler alert!) is dealt with quickly and brushed aside for a grand finale performance from Holly and the entire cast onstage together.

The plot moved simply and smoothly through Holly’s meteoric rise to stardom, slowing down between raucous musical numbers only to highlight Buddy’s oversized ego and its effect on his close relationships both business and personal.

Buddy, played by Zak Ward in a dedicated performance, struggled to maintain relationships with most of the people in his life. Ward was able to express all the swirling aspects of Holly’s psyche; the egomaniac, the rebellious teen, the smart sense of humor and the remorseful solo artist.

Theresa Quinn excelled in her role as Vi, the nebbish wife of producer Norman Petty, who gave Buddy his big break at the recording studio in New Mexico. Her lonely housewife character turned heads when she sat down as a session piano player during Holly’s studio time. Quinn’s sarcastic delivery and musical talent complemented Ward’s Holly in tone and technique.

Other standout musical numbers included Cecilia Snow, playing the MC at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, belting out a powerful rendition of “Shout” and of course Big Bopper, played by Jake Albarella, singing “Chantilly Lace”. The minimalist set was adequate considering the music was front and center. Besides Holly’s eccentric eye wear and some silly country-western shirts (hipster alert!) most of the characters wore era-appropriate attire.

The audience was engaged immediately following the first musical performance. Many clapped along, including some ladies sitting behind me who clearly knew the words to many songs.

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story was well staged and acted and appropriate for all ages. Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story runs until March 8, 2015 and is part of the 2014-2015 MusicalFare Theatre Season.