Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires
Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story
Also see Fred's review of Dear Evan Hansen
The cast of twelve is rather large for the small stage at Music Theatre of Connecticut, but this musical is smoothly performed and strikingly staged from beginning to end. Needless to say, without the right actor playing Buddy Holly, it wouldn't begin to work. Spiff Wiegand is a charismatic lead, as well as a fabulous singer and musician. Director Connors works wonders with his scenic designer Jessie Lizotte and costume designer Diane Vanderkroef in giving Buddy a distinctive and stylish look.
Backing up the star is an excellent group of performers who really get to strut their stuff. When the musical begins, Buddy Holly is part of The Crickets, with Matt Ruff on bass and Ken Sandberg on drums. Ruff and Sandberg are stunning musicians; in the second act Sandberg also gets to display his awesome talents on the saxophone. The plot begins in Texas in 1956 and the expert Adam Von Almen plays the deejay Hipockets Duncan, who gives Buddy Holly and The Crickets the real incentive to move from country music to rock and roll. As their first manager, Robert Mobley is just right and he also gets to perform a variety of other roles.
Still, the real heart of a show like this is the music. Among the first songs heard in the show are Buddy Holly and The Crickets singing excellent renditions of "Ready Teddy" and "That'll Be the Day." Toward the end of the first act, the group is featured at the Apollo Theatre in New York, where they rock out with "Peggy Sue" and "Oh, Boy!" As fellow performers at the Apollo, Michael Ray Fisher and Jannie Jones also get knockout numbers, with Jones nearly stopping the show with "Shout!" Other standout solo songs are performed by Jimmy Lewis, as The Big Bopper, igniting the stage with "Chantilly Lace," and the appealing and engaging Gian Raffaele DiCostanzo as Ritchie Valens bringing the audience to cheers with "La Bamba."
In smaller roles, Blair Alexis Brown, Jeff Gurner, and Matt Ruff also get to shine, and Elena Ramos Pascullo is lovely and touching as Buddy Holly's wife, Maria. The lighting design by RJ Romeo is magnificent, the sound design by Will Atkin pitch perfect, and musical director Angela C. Howell is astonishing leading these dynamic musicians. Choreographer Chris McNIff supplies excellent dance steps throughout and he works flawlessly with director Kevin Connors.
All the elements fall into place perfectly in Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story at Music Theatre of Connecticut. By all means, get tickets to this musical for an exciting and rollicking good time.
Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story runs through April 10, 2022, at Music Theatre of Connecticut, 509 Westport Ave., Norwalk CT. For tickets and information, please visit www.musictheatreofct.com.