As the world still mourns ‘The Day the Music Died,’ Bucks County Playhouse resurrects the amazing talent lost too soon. With book by Alan James and iconic songs by Buddy Holly such as, “That’ll Be the Day,” “Peggy Sue,” “Everyday,” and many more, the never-ending stream of hits keeps the audience tapping their toes for hours.
With the talented ensemble’s malleability and iconic characters, Hunter Foster’s direction transplants you back to 1959 in a great way. The direct address to the audience puts you in the room where these concerts happen in a magical way.
While some said that Buddy Holly had “the sex appeal of a telegraph pole,” John Dewey’s magnetism is off the charts in the title role. He sounds, looks, and acts like the late great Mr. Holly, while still showcasing his own incredible musical talent.
The 11-person cast not only fills all of the countless roles in the show, but are also the live band; almost all play instruements, all while recreating the talent of those that came before.
James David Larson (Joe B. Maudlin; bass) and Zach Cossman (Jerry Allison; drums) flesh out Buddy’s band and best friends with musical aptitude and charisma to boot. Maximilian Sangerman (Tommy Allsup, guitar, trumpet) also joins the band, fleshing out the band dynamic with a high energy performance.
Natalie Hero, playing Buddy’s love interest Marie Elena charms the audience with their whirlwind love story, sharing tangible chemistry with Dewey.
Brandi Chavonne Massey wows with “Shout” as the Apollo Performer, earning numerous laughs with the sassy dialogue spat at The Crickets backstage.
The rest of the cast is equally talented, filling out the remaining iconic people in Mr. Holly’s life, featuring Andrew Frace (Hipockets Duncan; saxophone), Kent M. Lewis (Norman Petty/Deutche; guitar), Elizabeth Nestlerode (Vi Petty; MD Associate; piano), Karack Osborne (The Big Bopper), and Gilbert V. Sanchez (Ritchie Valens).
Choreography by Lorin Lattaro do not distract from the music, while featuring those band and cast members highlighted in specific moments and songs.
In a show so driven by music, sound design by Matthew Given puts the audience in a radio studio, the recording studio, and live at concerts through different effects, while continuing to keep the band sounding great.
Andrew Koch’s beautiful turntable set allows multiple locations in the studio, in the office, on stage, or on the street with minimal changes and multiple drops. This gives a malleable canvas for Gina Scherr’s lighting design. Scherr’s lighting does not just punctuate the music, but amplifies its strength with concert-level bright colored lights, different for each new venue.
Costumes by Nicole V. Moody transports the cast back to the 1950s, from Buddy Holly’s classic thick-rimmed glasses, rolled up jeans, and button ups to the girls’ A-line, classic dresses.
For those who knew of Buddy’s work while he was alive, this is the perfect opportunity to relive the early days of rock ’n’ roll. For those of us who were not so lucky, make your way to Bucks County Playhouse to be transported back to be in the audience a concert with the 1950s greats we lost too soon.
Running time: 2 hours and 20 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission
Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story is playing through Saturday, July 16th at Bucks County Playhouse – 70 S. Main Street, New Hope, PA 18936. For tickets, call the box office at (215) 862-2121, or purchase them online.