The collaborative effort of the Intrepid Theatre Company of San Diego and the New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad brings “Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story” to NVA for a theatrical run until August 27th. The story centers on the meteoric rise of one of the pioneers of rock and roll music, Buddy Holly, from his early years of breaking into the music industry to the tragic end of his short career. The production is under the direction of the Intrepid Theatre Artistic Director Christy Yael-Cox. The production team consists of Tony Houck Music Director, Alex Crocker-Lakness Lighting Designer, Chad Goss Sound Designer, Christopher Scott Murillo Scenic Designer, Jeanne Reith Costume Designer, Kymberli Skye Properties Designer and Taylor Todd Stage Manager.
The musical, by Alan Janes, first opened in London’s Victoria Palace Theatre in 1989. It would run for 14 years at the theatre for some 5,822 performances. The musical would win a Laurence Oliver Award for Best Musical and a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical, after its run on Broadway at the Shubert Theatre in New York. It has been called the World’s Most Successful Rock n’ Roll musical ever produced.
The musical begins at Radio Station KDAV in Lubbock, Texas, in 1956, with DJ Hipockets Duncan, promoting Buddy Holly as a country western singer. Interestingly, Holly had no interest in being a country western singer. He had actually opened for a young Elvis Presley, in 1955, with a friend, billed as Buddy and Bob. A Decca Record recording deal put him in the country western category, giving him no creative control over the music he was to sing. DJ Hipockets is played by NVA veteran Manny Fernandes, who will return in Act II as the Big Bopper. Playing Buddy Holly is Paul Swensen Eddy, returning to the West Coast after six years in New York City. Eddy looks like buddy Holly, sounds like Buddy Holly, plays the guitar like Buddy Holly and for two hours you feel like you are watching the real Buddy Holly perform.
Photos by Daren Scott
The musical will take you through the struggles Buddy Holly had with his band, The Crickets, and with their dealings with Norman Petty of NorVaJak Studios in New Mexico. Petty allowed the band to play the kind of music they wanted, but also controlled the rights to all of the music and songs Holly wrote. Petty is played by Eddie Yaroch, a veteran of many local theatre productions. The Crickets band consists of Jarrod Alexander on drums playing Jerry Allison, Noah Zuniga Williams on Bass playing Joe Mauldin and later in the musical, Ross Martin would join The Crickets playing lead guitar playing Niki Sullivan and later Tommy Alsup. Most of the early Rock n’ Roll bands only consisted of three band members, but Holly would add a fourth band member. From this point on, early rock bands would consist of 4 members, an inspiration to groups like The Beatles.
The musical consists of no fewer than 24 songs, including Holly and the Crickets break-thru song, “That’ll be the Day”. This song would shoot to #1 in 1957. The musical also includes Holly and the Crickets appearance at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem in 1957. The story says that Tyrone Jones, of the Apollo, thought Holly and the Crickets was a black band and booked them sight unseen. When they arrived, they were allowed to perform, assisted in the musical by Jones and Marlena Madison, and they were a hit. Jones is played by NVA veteran Benjamin Roy, and he has the audience jumping when he performs “Shout”. Marlena Madison is played by Eboni Muse, who wows the audience singing “Mama He Treats Your Daughter Mean”. The actual true story of Holly at the Apollo says that Bo Diddley actually joined Holly on stage to help win over the all black audience. Not included in the musical is a 1957 Holly and the Crickets appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Act II primarily centers on Buddy Holly meeting his wife, his break-up with the Crickets, and the tragic fateful evening that led to his tragic death. Holly met his wife, Maria Elena Santiago, when he was visiting his recording company in New York City. A whirlwind 5 hour date led to Holly proposing and marrying Maria. Maria Elena is played by Nadia Guevara, who also is the choreographer for the musical. Many feel it is Maria Elena and her conflict with the Crickets band members and with Norman Petty which would lead Holly to breaking up the band.
This would all eventually lead to that fateful evening in 1959. Holly had joined the Winter Dance Party of 1959 Bus Tour with several other rock groups and singers. The tour was in the Midwest, performing in the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. On the tour with Holly was the Big Bopper J.P. Richardson and Ritchie Valens. The Big Bopper is played by veteran actor Manny Fernandes, who sings an enthusiastic and crowd pleasing version of “Chantilly Lace”. Richie Valens is played by another San Diego veteran actor, Shaun Tuazon. His version of “La Bamba” had the audience ready to jump up and dance. The musical includes the historic coin toss that decided the fate of Richie Valens. Holly’s wife, Maria, had a premonition and did not want him to fly. Holly was tired of the bus trips and wanted to get to their next destination, Moorhead, Minnesota, quicker. The problem was it was February in Iowa and the weather was horrible. A young Waylon Jennings, now a member of Holly’s band, was talked out of traveling on the plane by J.P. Richardson, who had the flu. With The Big Bopper and Holly on the plane, Valens talked Tommy Alsup into a coin toss for the final seat. Valens won, the rest is tragic history. The plane crashed shortly after take-off killing the three performers and the piolet.
Holly was only 22 years old, he had recorded 50 tracks in just over 18 months. He would be inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 and Rolling Stone magazine has listed him as #13 on the Top 100 Greatest Artists.
This musical is a tremendous tribute to Holly and his band. It is a well performed and presents a glimpse into the life of one of the “founders” of the Rock n’ Roll sound. The message of conviction and perseverance to your beliefs is also a strong part of the musical.
“Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story” will be at the New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad until August 27th. NVA is located at 2787 State Street. Tickets are available, but several of the dates are sold out so call quickly, by calling 760-433-3245 or go on line at www.newvillagearts.org. Next up for NVA is the first play for Season 17, beginning Sept. 23rd with the comedy “American Hero”.