Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Whoa, Buddy!

Holly's life too short, but Rainbow musical too long, too happy

  • Print

This broad-strokes musical hagiography of Buddy Holly may have some Rainbow Stage patrons asking: When exactly is dinner served?

The production is as good as it can be. The dinner-theatre vibe is an unavoidable byproduct of the play itself, an artless, forcibly jubilant celebration of the life of a doomed pop star.

Theatre review

Buddy -- The Buddy Holly Story

Rainbow Stage

To July 4

Tickets: $49.50-$59.50

Two and a half stars out of five

Written by Alan Janes and first produced in London's West End in back in 1989, Buddy is credited with launching the phenomenon of the "jukebox musical." If it is unique, it's because it hews close to the life of Buddy Holly, as opposed to subsequent jukeboxers (Mamma Mia!, We Will Rock You, Rock of Ages), which spun out original stories utilizing select playlists of hit songs.

Janes' book follows the Lubbock, Texas-born Charles Hardin "Buddy" Holley (not actually "Holly") in his efforts to become a recording star from the age of 19 to his tragic death at the age of 22.

Lubbock is emphatically a country-music town, and Buddy (played by an energetic Jeff Giles) is told in no uncertain terms that any other style of music is unwelcome. "Folks out here get real offended by that rock 'n' roll," he is told by Lubbock DJ Hipockets Duncan (Carson Nattrass). Elsewhere, we hear a psychiatrist labelling Holly's musical genre as "a communicable disease."

But Buddy has a dream. In the first act, his turbulent career path takes him to his historic concert in Harlem's Apollo Theater, where he gains quick acceptance from black audiences.

By the second act, we see Holly fall madly in love with publishing-company receptionist Maria Elena Santiago (Kimberly Rampersad), proposing marriage within five hours of their first meeting, a union that takes the sting out of Holly's subsequent breakup with his band, The Crickets.

It all leads to that fateful concert in the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, where Holly and fellow performers Big Bopper (Gerrit Theule) and Ritchie Valens (Curtis Brown) would subsequently take a plane to rock 'n' roll heaven.

As directed by Ray Hogg, Rainbow's production pushes the rote airbrushed fantasy of the '50s with roller skates/pressed dungarees/A-line skirts/platinum blond hair up the wazoo. Set designer Sean Mulcahy's two-tiered turntable set elegantly serves multiple settings and functions.

Performances are mostly solid from a cast whose members frequently qualify as quadruple threats -- singing, dancing, acting and playing instruments.

At its best, the musical does compel a consideration of Holly's pop brilliance. The fact that he wrote and recorded all these rock standards before he made his 23rd birthday is truly impressive.

But coming in at a ponderous three hours (including intermission) and featuring some 33 musical performances, the musical is too completist for its own good.

It gives us too much time -- time that may be spent distractedly contemplating this production's intermittent non sequiturs:

Why doesn't the Big Bopper have any hair?

What's with the redundancy in the title?

Why on earth is the climactic music performance Chuck Berry's Johnny B. Goode?

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 13, 2013 c3

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Raw: Video shows destroyed West Hawk Inn

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • An American White Pelican takes flight from the banks of the Red River in Lockport, MB. A group of pelicans is referred to as a ‘pod’ and the American White Pelican is the only pelican species to have a horn on its bill. May 16, 2012. SARAH O. SWENSON / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS
  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press.  Local/Weather Standup- Catching rays. Prairie Dog stretches out at Fort Whyte Centre. Fort Whyte has a Prairie Dog enclosure with aprox. 20 dogs young and old. 060607.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should panhandling at intersections be banned?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google