by Larry Ham
The word Icon gets thrown around a lot these days. Icons come pretty cheap in the year 2017. But, when it comes to the world of rock and roll music, there are some performers who can accurately be called Icons. And Buddy Holly is one of them. And if you want to know why he is such an iconic figure, then go see a performance of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story at the Ice House Theatre in Visalia.
Buddy:The Buddy Holly Story is a jukebox musical written by Alan Janes and has been enjoyed by audiences around the world for several decades. It’s the music of Buddy Holly and his band, The Crickets, that drives the story of the meteoric rise and untimely death of one of the most important figure in modern music.There perhaps has never been a musical written that is more dependent on the performance of one actor than The Buddy Holly Story. Buddy is obviously the cynosure of the entire production, and fortunately for the Visalia Players, Sean Hopper was up for the task of playing Buddy. His acting was spot on, his singing voice was very Buddy-like, and he tackled the almost impossible task of duplicating Holly’s innovative guitar riffs with enthusiasm and great joy.
The rest of the cast was excellent as well, and Chris Haberman, who played Buddy’s bass player Joe Mauldin was particularly hilarious–and fine bass player as well. Paul Reese, who played drummer Jerry Allison was excellent as well.
Of course, one of the highlights of this musical is the scene at the end of act one, when Buddy and the Crickets, fresh off their breakout hit “That’ll Be The Day” going to number one on the charts, are booked to appear at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. The Apollo scene is a complicated and hilarious combination of fear, loathing, racial tension, and ultimately, musical desegregation. The Apollo scene in the Visalia Players production is a smashing success, due in no small part to the performances of Ron Buckman and Ronnette Torrence, who sing and emcee the Apollo concert. Buckman was incredibly funny and together with Torrence, performed a robust version of the old Isley brothers hit “Shout”.
It was interesting to note that, at the Saturday night performance I attended, the audience was about a 50/50 mix of youngsters who probably had never heard of Buddy Holly, and oldsters like me, who grew up with Buddy’s music (I was only two years old when he died, but his music lived on in our house for many, many years). Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story is a show for everyone, and it runs at the Ice House Theatre in Visalia on weekends through July 2. Tickets can be purchased and more information found on their website and KRL readers can get a ticket discount which can be found in our Buddy Holly Story preview article.
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