Sunday, July 09, 2006

Buddy (Carousel Dinner Theatre)

‘BUDDY’ rocks the Carousel

If I didn’t know better, I’d assume Buddy Holly was presently performing at Carousel Dinner Theatre...but more about that later.

The musical, ‘BUDDY: THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY,’ which is basically a rock concert overlaid with a biographic story line, tells of the rise and tragic death of rock-and-roll superstar Buddy Holly. It was written by Alan Janes and Rob Bettinson.

Holly was born Charles Holley in Lubbock, Texas. He had a love for music and was a local bluegrass entertainer until 1955 when, after seeing Elvis Presley sing, he turned to rock-and-roll. After an appearance on the same bill as Bill Haley & His Comets, Holly was offered a contract with Decca Records, who not only changed the spelling of his name to “Holly” but tried to get him to return to his bluegrass roots. The young man, who once said, “Buddy Holly does things his way,” refused and was dropped by the record label.

Shortly afterwards, Holly, drummer Jerry Allison, and bass player Joe Mauldin formed the band “The Crickets.” They cut a record at a small studio in Clovis, New Mexico, entitled, “That’ll Be the Day,” and the rest is history. Songs such as “Peggy Sue,” “Everyday,” “Not Fade Away,” ”Oh Boy,” “Raining in My Heart,” “Rave On” and “Johnny B Good” followed.

Holly's musical sounds and lyrics were quite sophisticated for their day and led to his being a primary force in the evolution of rock-and-roll. He bridged the gap between white and black rockers. Paul McCartney cited Holly as a primary influence on the Beattles. Even the band's name was later chosen partly in homage to Holly's Crickets. The Rolling Stones also fell under the influence of Holly’s style.

In 1959, Holly split from the Crickets and began a solo tour with other notable performers, including Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson ("The Big Bopper").
Following the February 2 performance in Clear Lake, Iowa, Buddy Holly chartered a small airplane to transport Valens, Richardson and himself to their next gig. The plane crashed shortly after take-off, ending Holly’s short but meteoric career.

The Carousel production, under the able direction of Victoria Bussert, though a little long, is right on target. The show is generally well cast. Steve Parsons’ musical direction is tone right. Paul Black’s lighting and Russ Borski’s set all work to enhance the production.

John Rochette, as drummer Jerry Allison, is a terrific musician as is base player Tobia D’Amore (Joe Mauldin). Michael Busillo lights up the stage as the hip wiggling Ritchie Valens and Ryan Dunkin does a great enactment of the Big Bopper. The musical backups and character actors are all excellent.

The success of this production, however, depends entirely on the believability of the actor playing Holly. And, fortunately, Canton born Pat McRoberts doesn’t portray Holly, he lives Holly, he sings Holly, he dances Holly and he musically is Holly. McRoberts is Holly in every nuance. This is an amazing performance! Repeat....THIS IS AN AMAZING PERFORMANCE!

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Are you a rock-and-roll fan? Do you appreciate the music of Buddy Holly? Do you like a well put-together production? If so, you’ll love ‘BUDDY: THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY’ now on stage at Carousel. Even if you don’t love rock-and-roll, I defy you not to wind up dancing in the aisles during the curtain call.