BUDDY – THE BUDDY HOLLY STORYby Alan Janes, featuring the music of Buddy Holly
Garland Civic Theatre
Directed by – Dennis Canright
Music Director – Scott A. Eckert
Set Design – Dennis Canright
Lighting Design – Theresa Clapper
Stage Manager/Costumes – Cecily Warford
Ian Mead Moore – Buddy Holly
Bill Zaunder – Joe B. Mauldin
Jaren Lorenzo – Jerry Allison
Phil Gosselin – Hippockets Duncan
Sarah Garcia – Maria Elena
Colin Philips – Big Bopper/Hayrider
Ashley Collum – Norman Petty
Jonathan Garcia – Ritchie Valens/English DJ/Hayrider
Erin McGrew – Vi Petty/Hayrider
Tracy Pullin – Apollo Performer
Damond Cobin – Apollo Performer
Brandon Baker – Apollo Performer
Anthony Holmes – Apollo Performer
Sandy Young – Marlena
Dennis Canright – Murrey
Wesley Irvan – Producer/Decca Engineer
Jenny Dunne – Mary Lou Sokolof/Shirley/Asst. Decca Producer/Hayrider
Reviewed Performance: 1/25/2019
Reviewed by Carol M. Rice, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Director Dennis Canright has put together an incredible group of musicians onstage at the Granville Arts Center, and I don’t just mean good singers. There is no separate band or orchestra – everyone is onstage playing their respective instruments in character, which means they also have to be good actors. No small feat, aided, I’m sure, in part by Scott A. Eckert as musical director. Mr. Eckert’s work with the cast on harmonies and style is a large part of what makes this show work.
Leading the pack of the cast is the incredibly talented Ian Mead Moore as the iconic Buddy Holly. Tall and lean, he comes across early on as a soft-spoken yokel who can kind of sing a little. But Buddy has big dreams and he isn’t afraid to fight for them...all with a quiet, confident smile that causes everyone around him to underestimate his determination and talent. Mr. Moore is mesmerizing in the role, for he is a strong actor as well as a gifted guitar player and singer. If you’re a fan of Buddy Holly, you need to see this guy’s performance!
Bill Zauner plays bassist Joe B. Mauldin, one of the members of Buddy’s band, the Crickets. Not lacking for talent either, Mr. Zauner tears it up on the stand-up bass. I don’t want to spoil things for you, but suffice it to say that he has some pretty amazing surprises up his sleeve while performing in the Apollo Theatre scene! Jaren Lorenzo plays drummer Jerry Allison, and while he is, perhaps, not as flashy as Moore and Zauner, he is solid on the drums while making Jerry a loveable, goofy character.
Phil Gosselin portrays country radio DJ Hippockets Duncan with just the right amount of hokum, as well as sincere affection (and occasional exasperation) for his friend Buddy Holly. His character is one of constants throughout the show, and it is nice to see his admiration of Buddy grow as time goes on. Ashley Collum plays recording studio owner Norman Petty as a pompous businessman, yet someone who knows and appreciates talent and isn’t afraid to take a chance on it. His demeanor and facial expressions are great! Erin McGrew gives his wife, Vi Petty, some entertaining layers to work with, as she goes from wanting to blow off the young upstart musicians, to being pretty impressed by them, to joining them in the studio and showing off her piano playing chops!
Colin Philips plays the Big Bopper with lots of pizzazz, doing a spot-on imitation of him on “Chantilly Lace.” He is obviously having a great time playing this iconic character, and it shows. Mr. Philips also fills in a couple of small roles throughout the show and makes them all unique. Jonathan Garcia’s portrayal of Ritchie Valens and his performance of “La Bamba” are also a highlight, and he gets to be energetic and cocky as the young Latino star.
As a quintet of singers at the famous Apollo Theatre, Tracy Pullen, Damond Cobin, Brandon Baker, and Anthony Holmes, led by Sandy Young as Marlena, bring down the house with their rendition of “Shout,” as well as depicting some of the racial tensions of the late 1950s when they discover Buddy Holly and the Crickets are white. Ms. Young is amazing as the lead for this group, and the harmonies backing her up are perfect. Sadly, these actors only appear here and at the end of the show as backup singers for Buddy Holly’s last concert, and they are sorely underutilized.
Sarah Garcia doesn’t enter the scene until the second act as Buddy’s love interest, Maria Elena. He is immediately smitten and manages to get her to go out with them upon their first meeting, and also to get her to agree to marry him on their first date. Ms. Garcia appears in only a few scenes, but they are extremely important to the telling of Buddy Holly’s story. That said, she, too, is underutilized in the show. This is a problem inherent with the script, not GCT’s production of it.
Theresa Clapper’s lighting was excellent, going from concerts to studios to living spaces with ease and making it all flow together, bringing director/set designer Dennis Canright’s vision to life nicely. Mr. Canright’s direction is enhanced by the simple yet functional set, which wisely used the theatre’s proscenium, apron, and grand curtain for the concert scenes.
Jenny Dunne, Wesley Irvan, and Mr. Canright fill out the rest of the cast, playing multiple small roles and providing backup vocals. Ms. Dunne has a charming moment as a singing beauty queen, as well as getting to slap Jerry for using the same line Buddy used on Maria to get her to go out with him. Mr. Canright’s Murrey is a showy concert MC, while Mr. Irvan plays radio announcers, engineers, and even, briefly, Tommy Allsup, who loses a coin toss to Ritchie Valens for his spot on the doomed plane later that night.
The majority of the second half of Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story is a concert - the last at which Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens performed, in Clear Lake, Iowa. Soon afterwards, they boarded a small airplane that crashed, killing them all along with their pilot. All three of these talented performers were in the early stages of their musical careers, and I was surprised to learn that Buddy Holly had only been on the charts for about 18 months. He provided inspiration to everyone from Bob Dylan to the Beatles to Mick Jagger and was gone far too soon.
While the script for Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story is problematic and uneven, the show itself is nothing short of pure entertainment. The packed house at Garland Civic Theatre seemed to thoroughly enjoy it, and GCT even had a lovely opening night reception with hors d’oeuvres and cake following the show.
This crowd-pleaser will sell out, so plan to see Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story early in the run so you don’t risk missing out. Ian Mead Moore truly BECOMES Buddy Holly, and his performance alone is a tour de force.
Garland Civic Theatre
Granville Arts Center, Small Theatre
300 N. Fifth Street
Garland, TX 75040
Runs through February 10
Fridays and Saturday at 8:00 pm and Sunday at 2:30 pm)
Tickets are $18.00 (group and student rush tickets are available)
For information and to purchase tickets, go to https://www.garlandcivic.org/ or GarlandArtsBoxOffice.com, or call the box office at 972-205-2790.