Buddy—The Buddy Holly Story | The Muny

Buddy-Holly 75I so badly wanted to love it.

 

 

 

 

Buddy-Holly 500

Typically when I’ve seen a show and not enjoyed it, I don’t hesitate to say so. Except, in the case of Buddy—The Buddy Holly Story it’s hard to admit my disappointment with it because I so badly wanted to love it. It’s like in school when a fellow classmate works up the guts to ask you out on a date and he or she is such a nice person, but you just don’t feel strongly about them in that way so you turn them down. That’s how I felt about Buddy—The Buddy Holly Story.

Based on the portrayal of the Buddy (Andy Christopher) I saw on The Muny stage, he seems to have been the hipster of his day, big glasses and all. He’s doesn’t dig mainstream, conservative music, or general practicality. When he suddenly switches from performing country music to rock ‘n’ roll on Hipockets Duncan’s (John Scherer) radio show, I smirked with admiration for his rebellious soul. When he blows up at his first record label for making him play terrible, “safe” music, I marveled at his faithfulness to his sound. And when he tells Maria Elena (Sharone Sayegh) upon first meeting her that he’s going to marry her one day, and then does, my heart melted at the spontaneity and genuineness of it all. Buddy was a young man who knew exactly what he wanted. If you’re in the market for a musical role model, he’s a worthy candidate. As a matter of fact, his music has inspired a slew of well-known performers including Bruce Springsteen, the Byrds, Bob Dillon, Elton John, and The Beatles.

This show is cleverly structured to ensure that the audience gets both story and—what they’re really there for—Buddy’s famous songs. Each act ends with a mini concert of songs being performed back to back without interrupting the timeline of the story. Depending on how familiar you are with Buddy’s music, this arrangement could be good or bad. For me, the latter was unfortunately the case. When I came to this show I thought I would certainly recognize at least a couple of songs? I wasn’t familiar with his music at all, but he’s a legend, so I must have heard something of his at some point, right? Wrong. So for me, these long stretches of song just dragged on.

Now, I’ve gone to plenty of shows where I’ve experienced the music for the first time, and all has been perfectly well. To return to my dating analogy above, Buddy’s music—as renowned as it is—just wasn’t for me. When I think of the history of this genre of music I think Elvis, who actually is mentioned in this show. Buddy’s music just doesn’t sound like Elvis’ rock ‘n’ roll; it sounds like sped up, louder country music. Even the late Johnny Cash had an edgier sound than Holly, and Cash actually was a country singer. Again, Holly’s legacy is a great one, and I’m not trying to diminish that. I’m merely suggesting that if you go into this show as I did, you too may find yourself more fascinated with Buddy’s story than his actual sound.

The music aside, two other aspects of the show slowed its pace: the dancers and the attempt at audience interaction during the end of the second half. The dancers represented Buddy’s fans listening to his music from their homes, or in attendance at his shows, but they added nothing to the production other than some funky dance moves from the late 1950s. They just seemed thrown in so that there would be extra bodies on stage.

Two of the show’s stars were actually minor characters, but they deserve major praise. The first was Sam Weber as Joe B. Mauldin, who played the cello for The Crickets (Buddy’s band before going solo). Weber has mad skills with that instrument, playing it every which way he can contort himself, whether that be upside down or holding it like a guitar. He was a lot of fun to watch. Second is Teressa Kindle who absolutely killed it when she performed “Shout.”

In Muny fashion, this show had fantastic set design, so props to Robert Mark Morgan for taking us back in time.

It’s devastating that a plane crash stole Buddy away from this world at the young age of 22. He left a greater impact on the musical arena in a couple years’ time than some musicians do in 20. If you like Buddy’s music or would just like to see a good, honest musical-bio, checkout this show. But for what it’s worth, this production doesn’t come close to the best I’ve seen in the musical-bio genre. | Megan Washausen    

BuddyThe Buddy Holly Story runs at The Muny through July 19. For ticket information, visit http://muny.org/.

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