reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story is Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s tuneful summertime treat for 2019. The jukebox musical was first presented in 1989 in London’s West End where it played for 12 and a half years. With a storyline written by Alan James and music by the inimitable Buddy Holly, the show provides a touchstone history of the rock n roll artist’s rise, and his fateful demise. We first find Holly and his band – The Crickets – in Lubbock Texas as he pushes against the predominant country style music with a self-possessed passion for rock. After failures in Lubbock and Nashville, the band finds their way to Clovis New Mexico where, in the recording studio of Norman Petty, they are finally able to record their signature sound with a long series of cuts. Eventually, it’s on to Harlem’s Apollo Theatre and further stardom.

Cricket drummer Jerry Allison (Josh McLemore), frontman Buddy Holly (Kyle Jurassic) and bassist Joe Maudlin (James Daley) perform at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem in Beef and Boards’ production of “Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story”.

Although the narrative of the plot follows Holly’s climb to success in a thinly threaded storyline, it is the music that is the show. Studio sessions, an elongated Apollo Theatre show, one privately romantic song for Holly’s wife, and a grand, full blown final concert scene form the true impact of this musician’s journey. And what an outstanding display of talent and energy is offered here by every cast member!

Kyle Jurassic as Buddy Holly in Beef and Boards’ production of “Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story”.

Directed by Jeff Stockberger, Buddy features a full roster of talented musicians and vocalists. Kyle Jurassic takes the title role, in his third opportunity to do so – having played the part at the Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre in Lancaster PA and at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City. Jurassic shows a tremendous understanding of the man – whose quiet nature in private is coupled with a fierce drive for self-expression and a charismatic stage aura. Jurassic knows how to rock the house, and does so in song after song with an energetic force in both his Holly-mimicking vocals and his fine guitar work. I think we are very fortunate to be the benefactors of his previous encounters with this character. Buddy Holly truly comes alive in Jurassic’s performance on the B&B stage.

The Big Bopper (Chuck Caruso), Buddy Holly (Kyle Jurassic) and Ritchie Valens (Edward LaCardo) rock the house in Beef and Boards’ production of “Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story”.

The supporting cast is rife with accomplished players and singers. Edward LaCardo does an impressive high octane rendering of “La Bamba” as Ritchie Valens. Chuck Caruso is superb as The Big Bopper (J.P.Richardson), offering an authentically slick version of the Bopper’s hit, “Chantilly Lace”. In the Apollo Theatre scene, Tarra Conner Jones blows the roof off as Mama Pearl in her rendition of “Shout”, with a tremendous and lively accompaniment by Joshua L.K. Patterson. James Daley on bass and Josh McLemore on drums form Holly’s band – The Crickets, along with guitarist Christopher Tucker. This trio crushes the Buddy Holly catalog with absolutely dynamic presentations.

Buddy Holly (Kyle Jurassic) reassures his wife Maria Elena (Kelly Powers-Figueroa) in Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre’s production of “Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story”.

Other highlights include B&B favorite John Vessels as Lubbock C&W DJ, Hipockets Duncan; Justine Figueroa as Holly’s New Mexico producer, Norman Petty; Kelly Powers-Figueroa as Holly’s wife, Maria Elena; and Sarah Hund, showing her extraordinary fiddle chops as a featured musician in several scenes.

The undeniable high point of the show is the second act finale, where the entire cast portrays the final fateful Holly/Valens/Bopper appearances at Cedar Lake Iowa. Consisting of 10 musical numbers, we are entertained with a concert-like event, in which we get to see and feel the unbound talents these noted performers gave to their audience. It’s crazy-good!

On the more technical side, Kristy Templet provides the exceptional musical direction, Michael Layton devises a clever scenic design, Ryan Koharchik’s lighting ideas are perfect, and Jill Kelly Howe once again knocks it out of the park with her costume designs. Chef Odell Ward’s inviting menu features honey-mustard chicken and cajun cod, along with a good variety of veggies and other dishes.

Bottomline: Even with its rather thin storyline, this show is a rousing portrait of one of the great rock n roll pioneers. The standing ovation for these performers was well-deserved – I daresay, everyone in attendance had a memorable time.

Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story continues at Beef and Boards Dinner Theatre through August 18th. Find show times and reservations at http://www.beefandboards.com or you may call the box office at 317-872-9664.

  • – photos by Julie Curry
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