by Lynn on October 4, 2015

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Lower Ossington Theatre, Toronto. Ont.

Written by Alan Janes
Directed by Alan Kinsella
Set by Michael Galloro and Mikael Kangas
Costumes by Erin Gerofsky
Lighting and projections by Mikael Kangas
Sound by Curtis Whitaker
Musical Director, Mike Ross
Cast: Mike Buchanan
Diana Chrisman
William Alexander Doyle
Thomas James Finn
Kevin Foster
Rebecca Hergett
Nigel Irwin
Dan Kosub
Phil Skala
Angela Thompson

A rousing, rocking musical of Buddy Holly’s life and greatest hits done by a committed cast.

The Story. Buddy Holly was considered one of the pioneers of Rock and Roll. He wrote masses of songs that became standards: “That’ll Be the Day”, “Peggy Sue”, “Maybe Baby.” And he influenced everybody from Bob Dylan to the Beatles to the Rolling Stones. This is all the more astonishing because he died in a plane crash in 1959 when he was just 22 years old. His career was about three years long when he first began to the time he was at the top of the rock and roll world. And yet he has had this affect on rock and roll since then. He proposed to his wife after only one date.

The book for this juke-box musical was written by Alan Janes. It covers the basic information. Buddy Holly was born in Lubbock, Texas and got his start there. He was slotted into country and western venues and radio stations but really wanted to sing and write rock and roll, but that was considered black music. But he was true to himself and his music.

He was always different: he wore a suit and tie when he performed. He wore horned rimmed glasses. He looked like a geek but sang like a dream and people loved his music. I found the dialogue clunky and flat. But it does give a sense of how smart he was musically and how he knew how to write and sell a song.

The Production. Buddy, The Buddy Holly Story is at the Lower Ossington Theatre which specializes in doing musicals with fresh, young talent just out of theatre school, for the most part. The talent is usually good but I was worried about the sound. I haven’t been lucky with it when I’ve seen shows in its main space. The sound is so often too loud and not balanced. Every body is microphoned and blaring.

But Buddy, The Buddy Holly Story is being done in the Studio of the Lower Ossington Theatre, a smaller space and the sound is right.

But this production is in the smaller studio space and the sound if fine. When they let out with the rock and roll the balance and loudness is appropriate.

The production is directed by Alan Kinsella who has done a lot of work At the Lower Ossington Theatre. He has a certain flair with this stuff, although some of the blocking seems a bit messy. The set is on various levels—upper stage right is the radio station in Lubbock, Texas where Buddy first began. There is a drum kit stage right. Downstage there are three microphones to suggest the various venues Buddy played. At the back ‘written’ in light is the word “Buddy.” Simple.

As Buddy Holly, Nigel Irwin has a strong voice and certainly can play the guitar. And gets jumping when he plays. But I find his acting awkward. He seems uncomfortable in the role or perhaps that’s how he sees the character. I know Buddy Holly didn’t look like a rock and roller, but I don’t think he should be this stilted. On the other hand Thomas James Finn as Hi-pockets, the host for the country and western station where Buddy got his start, has a smoothness in that role. And as J.P. Richardson, aka The Big Bopper, Finn is outstanding. When he sings “Chantilly Lace” he moves, shakes and swivels like a true rock and roller and you can’t take your eyes off him. By the way, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens all died in that plane crash with Buddy Holly.

Musicals like this one give up and coming talent a chance to show their stuff. So while I have a problem with the book of the musical and perhaps Nigel Irwin’s performance, the production is lively and the music is infectious. You might be in peril of getting up and dancing. Be warned.

The Lower Ossington Theatre presents:

Opened: October 1, 2015
Closes: October 25, 2015
Cast: 10; 7 men, 3 women
Running Time: 80 minutes.

Tickets at:

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