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San Francisco by Richard Connema

An Exciting Production of Buddy

Also see Richard's review of The Underpants and The Good Body

Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story has been rockin' the enthusiastic audiences at the Post Street Theatre in San Francisco for several weeks now, after highly successful engagements in Carmel and San Jose.

Buddy is what could be called a musical event. It ran in London for twelve and half years on the West End, first at the Victoria Palace and later at the Strand. The musical recouped its investment after 15 weeks at the Palace. In October 2001 it reached it 5000th performance. The event finally closed on March 2, 2002, making it the second longest musical to play London (second to Starlight Express). Buddy took in 46 million pounds in its London run and has made 200 million pounds world wide. It also won the Olivier Award for Best Musical when it first appeared at the Palace. This high energy piece has played in every major city in this country, including a successful road tour here on the west coast.

Buddy covers the period of Holly’s ascent to stardom from January 1956 to his tragic death on February 2nd, 1959. The stimulating production ends with the famous Clear Lake, Iowa concert that featured Buddy along with Ritchie Valens, Big Bopper and Jack Daw and The Snowbirds. During the last 20 minutes, the whole theatre jams to the frenzied beat of old time rock 'n' roll with a great, full orchestra on stage. The whole company energizes such classics as the Big Bopper’s (Scott Free) rendition of “Chantilly Lace” and hip-swinging Richie Valens' (Davitt Felder) “La Bamba.” Matt Davis as the Clear Lake MC and the Snowbirds give out a great doo wop version of “Why Do Fools Fall In Love?”

There is a brief, sad moment when the news of Buddy’s death comes over the radio. The stage darkens and you see the image of just Buddy and his guitar onstage. However, the moment passes and spirits are lifted again by the full cast putting the audience into a hand clapping and foot stomping affirmation.

Buddy
Travis Poelle (center) and (l-r) Luke Darnell, David Schulz and Don Dally

Buddy opens in Lubuck, Texas, where the audience hears some good old down home “Hee Haw” sound in “The Orange Blossom Special “ by Little Willy and The Hayriders. Little Willy is our hero Buddy who finally says he is sick of the old fashioned Grand Ole Opry’s '50s sound. From there on, it's nothing but '50s rock 'n' roll. One of the most dazzling scenes is the Apollo Theatre gig when Kalene Parker and Daniel Simpson bring down the house with “Good Times” and “Party” to a hand clapping R&B beat.

The cast gives outstanding performances, both in a musical and an acting sense. Travis Poelle is Buddy Holly. He exemplifies the singer’s rustic, unhip persona while impeccably reproducing Holly’s vocal and instrumental dexterity. He is ably supported by Luke Darnell, David Schulz and Don Dally as his countrified backup musicians, the Crickets. Travis tears up the stage with his boundless energy, especially the famous Iowa concert of 1959. Local actor Jessie Caldwell (The King in the Willows' production of Big River) is effective as New Mexico record producer Norman Petty.

Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story runs through July 11 at the Post Street Theatre, 450 Post Street, San Francisco. For tickets call 415-321-2900 or at www.buddyrocks.com.


Photo: Robert Bengtson


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area


- Richard Connema



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