Buddy–The Buddy Holly Story Presented by Visalia Players

Jun 7, 2017 | 2017 Articles, Theatre

by Nancy Holley

Special KRL coupon code at the end of this article.

The Visalia Players at the Ice House Theatre are excited to climax their 60th anniversary season with the musical, Buddy–The Buddy Holly Story. Alan Janes wrote the play to honor Holly’s remarkable talent and to spotlight the extraordinary significance of his work.

In the late 1950s, Buddy Holly burst onto the Rock and Roll scene as an original contributor to the genre. Biographer Bruce Eder noted, “Holly was unique, his legendary status and his impact on popular music all the more extraordinary for having been achieved in barely 18 months.” The tragic plane crash that left Buddy Holly dead at age 22 along with fellow artists Ritchie Valens, age 17, and J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, age 28, has been immortalized in song as “The Day the Music Died.”

The play covers just three years of Holly’s life, 1956-1959, but in that short span, he went from a “wannabe” in Lubbock, TX to nation-wide fame with The Winter Dance Party bus tour bringing the new music of Rock and Roll to teenage enthusiasts. Along the way, Holly’s band was booked into The Apollo, a traditionally black theatre, in New York. Clark Hawley, who portrays the DJ who interviews Holly before this appearance, chuckled as he noted, “I’m the only one who knows this white group has been booked into a black theatre.” Nevertheless, Holly and his band prevail with “That’ll Be the Day” climbing the charts by the time they finish their Apollo run.


Sean Hopper (Buddy Holly)

The star of the Ice House production is Sean Hopper as Buddy Holly. Hopper, who physically resembles Holly, has found his desire to be as much like Holly as possible in voice and other traits a bit of a challenge. “There is not a lot on-line to help one know how he moved and acted.” When asked about Holly as a person, Hopper noted, “He is very passionate about his music. He is a perfectionist and unrelenting in how he feels about it. It has to be the way he wants it.”

Director Leeni Mitchell is very proud of her amazingly talented cast. “There are just so many of them!” Nevertheless, Mitchell is no stranger to large casts or musical productions. Her past successes are many and include the very popular “Patsy Cline” and “Respect.” Mitchell has a penchant for crowd pleasers and the Visalia Players recognizing this have scheduled Buddy–The Buddy Holly Story for a four-week run.

New comers to the Ice House stage are having a great time with the show. Kenny Munyon, who appears as Norman Petty, Buddy’s manager, said, “I’m having a ball with it. It’s a perfect period piece for me being a fan of that era.” Portraying J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson is a new experience for Art Simon, Jr. “I’m a singer. I don’t mind if you hear me, but I don’t really want you to see me. Everyone has been very supportive and God Bless my wife for helping me with my lines.”


left to right: Kenny Munyon, Sean Hopper, Chris Haberman

Marco Rodriguez has known Ritchie Valens since he was four or five years old watching “La Bamba” over and over. “It was my favorite so it is really fun to do it (be Ritchie in the play). To be him is an amazing feeling. He was one of the greatest singers ever.”

“I grew up listening to Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley. My grandparents and my folks really liked their music and passed it on to me,” said Mason Garcia (Hipockets Duncan). “The 50s Rock has such a unique sound, not too much country and not too much Rock and Roll. The lyrics are still applicable today.”


Left to right: Art Simon, Jr., Marco Rodriguez, Sean Hopper

Buddy–The Buddy Holly Story opens at the Ice House Theatre at Race and Santa Fe in Visalia at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 9, 2017 and runs for four weekends with evening performances at 7:30 p.m. on 6/9, 6/10, 6/16, 6/17, 6/23, 6/24, 6/30, and 7/1, and matinees at 2:00 p.m. on 6/11, 6/18, 6/25, and 7/2.

For more information about the Visalia Community Players and to purchase tickets, check out their website and KRL’s article about VCP. Tickets may also be purchased by calling 734-3900. For details about local arts groups in Tulare County, visit the Visalia Arts Consortium website.

Check out even more local theatre reviews & articles in our Arts & Entertainment section!

To purchase two tickets for the price of one, enter KRLBHS in the Have a code? box on the Buy/Redeem Tickets Reservation page via the Players website.

Nancy Holley has been involved in the Visalia Community Players off and on since the 1970s, both as a director and actor. In 2010, she retired from 25 years as a software consultant and has since expanded her role at the Players. She is now Membership Chairman and assists with the Players on-line ticketing system.

1 Comment

  1. Hello! I teach high school Spanish in MI, and the past 2 days we have been learning about the life of Ritchie Valens, so it is such a coincidence I came across this while browsing your site (which I love by the way!). 🙂 It’s impossible to teach about Ritchie without also introducing my students to the lives and music of Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper. I cannot wait to share this with them tomorrow….I wish we lived closer so we could attend the show. It sounds like it’s going to be fantastic!!! Thank you for sharing. 🙂


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