Those first few minutes with the whiny overwrought teen version of Buddy were just about as annoying as a whiny teen can be. And much of the acting and dialogue during the first act was screechy and overwrought. I wasn’t sure I could make it through another 90 minutes.
But once they picked up the guitars, the show became absolutely enchanting. And during the final number, a recreation of Buddy Holly’s final show with the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens on the fateful night when the music died, it was a rockin’ cresendo.
We attended opening night of the Broadway in Chicago touring production of The Buddy Holly Story. Buddy was played by Andy Christopher, who shares the demanding role with Kurt Jenkins. On nights when the two talented performers are not playing the lead, they slide into the role of Tommy Allsup.
While the show reminds viewers that Holly died at the unripe, too-young age of 22 (along with Valens who was just 17 at the time, and the Big Bopper, who perished in the same plane crash), it thankfully focuses on the joy of his music. The touring cast is filled with mutli-talented performers who sing, dance and play multiple instruments. Unfortunately, for the most part their talents don’t extend to acting.
There’s a scene smack in the middle that depicts Holly and his band, the Crickets, making their way to New York, where they have been booked to play the Apollo Theater in Harlem. To teens who grew up in an urban environment with white and black friends, it is a revelation to watch the almost painfully funny interaction of the clueless white boys from Lubbock, Texas, and the worldly Aretha Franklin-esque singer, played by the big voiced Lacretta Nicole. The boys think they’re gonna die when they realize (apparently for the first time) that the Apollo Theater in Harlem in the late 1950s is blacks-only. She thinks they’re gonna die too–until she hears them play.
That scene, while something of a racial caricature, is the turning point in the show, mostly because it turns on the show’s strengths–Buddy’s music.
“Buddy–The Buddy Holly Story” runs through June 30 at the Cadillac Palace Theater in Chicago.