Review: The Buddy Holly Story – a rockin’ good time

Sometimes an actor seems destined to play a certain role.  For actor Zachary Stevenson that role is the title character in Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, currently on stage at the Arts Club’s Stanley Theatre.

Spanning the eighteen months from Holly’s meteoric rise from obscurity as a member of the struggling country band The Crickets, through to his final concert in 1959 before he was killed in a tragic airplane crash, Buddy is a non-stop fifties music fest.

But to be honest, to call this show the Buddy Holly “Story” is a bit misleading as it really is a revue featuring an amazing line-up of Holly’s and a few other hits of the day.  At times it seems like playwrights Alan Janes and Rob Bettinson are grasping for some way to connect the music to bits of Holly’s short life and even then they struggle using some rather cheesy audience participation gimmicks in lieu of a narrative.

While Stevenson is definitely the star here, in a tour de force performance that is worthy of the admission price alone, other stand-outs include Michael Scholar Jr as Ritchie Valens, who I swear is going to need hip replacement by the end of the run and Kieran Martin Murphy’s take on the “Big Bopper”.  When these two take the stage with Stevenson in the re-creation of their final 1959 concert, the energy is palpable and one of the most memorable scenes of the show.

As well, the other members of The Crickets (Jeff Bryant, Scott Carmichael and Jeremy Holmes) all manage to keep up with both Stevenson’s energy with some incredible musicianship of their own.

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story
Jeremy Holmes, Scott Carmichael, and Zachary Stevenson in Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story. Photo by Tim Matheson.

 

Director Bill Millerd does a great job here across the sprawling Stanley theatre stage and while at times I had hoped for a bit more intimacy, he is hampered in a big way by the playwrights’ seeming refusal to explore Holly’s relationships in any depth.  Valerie Easton gets the choreography down perfectly, especially when she gets to work with the various back-up groups that appear throughout the show, and Rebekka Sorensen’s costumes are all fabulous fifties fun.  Musical Director Sasha Niechoda must deservedly take a great deal of credit here as well in helping bring Holly’s music to life providing a rich and exciting sound from all his actors.

It is in Stevenson’s performance, backed up by a great supporting cast, which ultimately makes Buddy so eminently fun to watch (and dare I say it, dance and sing-a-long to).

Go for Stevenson’s amazing performance, stay for the rockin’ good time!

4 out of 5 Stars The Buddy Holly Story
Arts Club Stanley Theatre
13 May – 11 July 2010

“Peggy Sue,” “That’ll Be the Day,” “Oh Boy,” “Not Fade Away”—the list of hit songs penned by Buddy Holly goes on and on. By his untimely death, the legend had already changed popular music forever. Vibrant and celebratory, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story highlights the talent and passion that lives on in his music and continues to thrill audiences long after they dance out of the theatre!  Call 604.687.1644 or visit http://www.artsclub.com for tickets and information.

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