Thursday, August 6, 2015

theatre review - BUDDY, THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY - Fountain Hills Theater - August 2, 2015

Jack Lambert (center) with Javone Patton andEnrique D. Lara
Photo: Carol Carroll / Fountain Hills Theater

Click here for more information on this production that runs through August 16th.

 "Buddy - the Buddy Holly Story is a slim musical biography that tells the story of the legendary rocker from his rise to fame at the age of 21 to his untimely death, just two years later, in 1959. While Alan Janes' book is slight, hearing over a dozen of Holly's hits plus other well-known tunes from the era, played by some exceptionally gifted musicians, results in a rocking good time, and Fountain Hills Theater's production is a winner with a stellar performance from Jack Lambert as Holly.  The musical follows Holly from his teen years in Lubbock, Texas, where he preferred to play rock over country, through the recording of his many hit songs with producer Norman Petty. It also briefly touches on the tragic plane crash that took his life after his meteoric rise to the top of the charts. That accident, forever immortalized in the song "American Pie" and dubbed "The Day the Music Died," as it also took the lives of fellow rockers Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper), doesn't overshadow the upbeat nature of the story but adds a touching footnote on just how short Holly's life was...While Jack Lambert may not quite have Holly's signature gangly frame and dorky looks, he perfectly exhibits the lovable, infectious intensity and rambunctious traits Holly was known for and that were captured on his appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show." Lambert also delivers an almost perfect mimicry of Holly's trademark singing style, full of vocal hiccups and a soulful energy. His guitar skills are impressive as well, including a superbly played, and sung, second act solo of "True Love Ways." Lambert also exudes a huge dose of charm and spontaneity that, when combined with everything else he brings to the part, makes you feel like you've gone back in time to witness first-hand the rise of this legendary rocker....Sky Donovan a firecracker as Valens, singing a rousing version of "La Bamba," and Bill Bennett exceptionally joyful as the Big Bopper. Buddy doesn't dig too deep into Holly's past or his musical influences and also doesn't give much stage time to the behind the scenes drama, focusing solely on the creation of the music. This is all fine, but it means the supporting cast mainly portray two-dimensional characters...Under Hill's adept direction, the production rocks and rolls from start to finish but also affords several sweet moments that allow us to grasp Holly's connection with his fellow band members as well as his wife. ...Jay Melberg is to be commended for his skilled musical direction, especially since all of the actors play their own instruments, and play them very well.  Simply not just a biography of Holly, but more a tribute, Buddy - the Buddy Holly Story is a crowd-pleasing jukebox musical that does a good job in recreating the excitement around the early days of rock and roll. While you may not learn everything there is to know about Holly, the musical explodes into a full out concert, with the entire cast providing the musical accompaniment and singing backup, that has both the cast and the audience rocking out. The combination of that concert finale and Lambert's wonderful portrayal of Holly turn Fountain Hills Theater's production of Buddy - the Buddy Holly Story into a bolt of rock 'n' roll lightning."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

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