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Theater Review: Buddy story rockin’ the Broadway Palm

By Staff | Nov 5, 2014

Broadway Palm’s 161st production is of “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” a rockin’ and rollin’, toe-tappin’, rousing success, thanks not only to that talented Director/Choreographer Amy Marie McCLeary, but also to the extremely talented cast headed up by Todd Meredith (this is Todd’s 16th production in this role, it is also Todd’s second time of reprising this role for the Broadway Palm, Todd also acted as assistant director in this most recent production).

The plot line which covers Holly’s meteoric rise to fame is entertainingly told in an explosively enjoyable two hours of Buddy’s hit after hit, doing complete justice to this star who was once told to fah-ged-abou-dit since he had the sex appeal of a telegraph pole, but who went on to become a worldwide sensation, making even his super-sized black hornrimmed specs a sexy trademark.

What’s even more remarkable is that he achieved this much super stardom in just two years before losing his life in a tragic 1959 plane crash; along with other rock n’ roll greats Ritchie Vallens, 17, (steamily played by Jayar Garcia) and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, 28, (performed with flash and dash by Mike Brennan).

They may have all tragically perished in that plane crash but their music lives on even today some 55 years later, still inspiring multigenerational audiences to wriggle in their seat, clap to the beat and dance in the aisles.

Broadway Palm really steps up their awesome production by having its entire multitalented cast of 15 acting, singing, dancing AND accompanying itself on musical instruments, all under the keen eye and inspirational direction/staging of Amy Marie McCleary. Director/Choreographer McCleary capitalizes on every single cast member’s versatility, which radiates throughout, sending sizzles and dazzling every member of the delighted audience.

Now, as to the individual performances, no doubt about it Todd Meredith has morphed into Buddy Holly, going from a geeky-looking beanpole in black hornrims into a determined guy, doing it “his way,” turning this young performer into a megastar. Meredith is the total package and his take on this rock n’ roll great is just that, Great.

As his loyal musical, backup players and pals “The Crickets,” we have Zach Sicherman as Joe B. Mauddin; wowing us on bass, while a comedic Drew Bastian as Jerry Allison lays down the beat on drums. As Holly’s manager and Lubbock Texas’s redneck country-western radio station DJ Hippockets Duncan, actor Dale Given couldn’t have been more on target, as he sets Buddy up with New Mexico’s rock n’ roll recording manager Norman Petty, (played by Justin Droegemueller) along with his talented piano-playing wife Vi (Allison Fund). Petty’s promotion and guidance catapult Holly and the Crickets to the top of the charts.

The rest of the show is rock n’ roll history; Buddy performs at the Apollo theater in Harlem, N.Y., and knocks the socks off of an all-black crowd, who expected these rock n’ rollers to be black dudes, not white honkeys. The Apollo Theater’s singing performers that introduce Buddy and the Crickets to the audience was the dynamic trio of Sidney Davis, Susaye Lawson, and Rendell Debose, who couldn’t have been better, they really rocked the joint!

There are tender moments in the show too; one was when Buddy meets the love of his life and soon-to-be wife Maria Elena (fetchingly played by Jenny Stodd). But for a flash finish, nothing can beat the last performance of the “big three,” who took stage in a jam session at the Clear Lake Dance Party where Buddy wails “Maybe Baby,” “Peggy Sue” and “Heartbeat,” followed by the Big Bopper (Mike Brennan) singing “Chantilly Lace,” then Ritchie Valens (Jayar Garcia) blew the roof off of the Palm with his hipswinging rendition of “La Bamba” on stage, that tragic day out when “the music died.”

But fear not, time stops when the “big three” are silhouetted on stage for an instant; then they break into one big jam session, which then spills into the aisles with singing and getting almost all of us rockin’ n’ rollin’ never wanting the music to stop, which it didn’t, with chants of “one more song” till the curtain rang down on the cheering crowd of delighted audience members.

Having said all that, my advice is run, dance, or zip on over to the nearest phone and call the box-office today (278-4422), make a reservation before the music ends for “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” which happens on Nov. 15. When you phone, remind ’em Marsha sent you!

Ohwhile I have the undivided attention of the lucky few who are here now! I have just come back from seeing one of the best world-class ballet companies around, which performs practically next door in Sarasota. The Sarasota Ballet is truly the best of the best that I’ve had the pleasure to see in many a year and that IS saying something. Not since I was a member of the 3-year-old (back in the dark ages of 1952) New York City Ballet, has there been such a terrific company. I happened to see the world premiere of Will Tucket’s “The Secret Garden” created especially for the Sarasota Ballet. It is and adaptation of Hodgson Burnett’s book “The Secret Garden.” This dance-theater production incorporated dance, puppetry and drama, in a blend to delight all ages. Now, this particular ballet has ended, but the rest of the Sarasota Ballet’s season will feature works by Balanchine, Ashton, Nureyev, Paul Taylor, the classics by Fokine (Les Sylphides), Petrushka, and Mijinsky’s “Afternoon of a Faun.”

Did I whet your appetite yet? If yes, get right to the phone and call the box office (941) 359-0099. Do it soon. This company has a huge following in Sarasota and beyond; the next performance is Nov. 21-22 at the Sarasota Opera Theater; the program is Balanchine’s “Rubies,” Will Tucket’s “Lux Aeterna,” and Christopher Bruce’s “Sergeant Early’s Dream,” (first performed by Ballet Rambert 1984).

Don’t mention Marsha sent you since they haven’t a clue as to who I am.