The Buddy Holly Story at the McCarter Theatre Center

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story was presented by the McCarter Theatre Center on January 29 as part of the McCarter Theatre’s 2015-2016 Signature Series.

Alan James wrote Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story in 1989, presenting it in London’s West End where it ran for almost 6,000 performances. According to the liner notes, it has since toured the United Kingdom for twenty years racking up another 5,000 performances. Interesting, too, is that the evening’s director, Matt Salisbury, has worked on Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story since it opened in 1989, working again on this 2016 tour.

The show was advertised as starting at 7:30. In reality, it began at 8:00. This enabled me to overhear two patrons discussing the show. The woman posed the question what would the show be like, wondering if it was to be musical numbers only, to which her male companion retorted, “Well, it says it is The Buddy Holly Story, so we can assume there will be a story involved with the music.” How right he was. The story covers the less than two years when Holly and his two friends (Later known as The Crickets) rose to fame.

As one would expect, the evening was filled with Buddy Holly’s music. An entire page of the program was devoted to the list of hit songs which included “That’ll Be The Day,” “Peggy Sue,” “It’s So Easy To Fall In Love.” The theatre was packed with an enthusiastic crowd aged 19 to 99, and after the intermission, many women in their 70s could be seen dancing in their seats, hugging and kissing their friends. The second half of the show recreated the last night of Holly’s life, a Clear Lake, Iowa, concert in February 1959.  For some, this concert went on a bit too long and could have been improved by omitting a few numbers from this long evening, but for others, it appeared they could have stayed for another two-and-a-half hours and not minded.

As Buddy Holly, Michael Perrie, Jr., was a talented performer who embodied the essence of the late singer. Perrie bore an uncanny resemblance to Holly, portraying the artist first as an excited youth to the more seasoned professional he quickly became. The rest of the indefatigable cast sometimes doubled roles and often sang or played instruments in the many musical numbers. 

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story was a feel-good evening and an enjoyable hit.

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story was part of the McCarter’s Signature Events, an ambitious presentation of music, dance, and performance. Future events will include:  The Midtown Men, February 19; the Salzburg Marionettes, February 27 and 28; David Sedaris, April 6; Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs, May 13; and Art Garfunkel, May 20.  Music and dance events are also represented in the series by the internationally renowned pianist Mitsuko Uchida on February 20, violinist Midori on April 17, and the Dance Theatre of Harlem on May 18, among many others. 

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