By John Horan Jr. - firstname.lastname@example.org
MIDDLETOWN -- Wayside Theatre's "Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story" is a guaranteed antidote to winter blues and, at least temporarily, the parlous economy.
The musical tribute to the rock 'n' roll pioneer culminates in a rollicking jam session that features the talented cast wheeling through a medley of "golden oldies" sure to delight any audience.
The show, which broke box office records at Wayside three years ago, replaces another, more expensive production, canceled for budgetary reasons. "Buddy," tried and true, though, fills the bill -- and certainly will help the theater pay them. Patrons who saw the earlier production won't chafe at a replay of the easy-going musical and newcomers will find it an infectious romp.
The climax is a re-creation of Holly's last concert before his death at age 22 in a plane crash in 1959. Oblivious to the fate that awaits him and his fellow performers, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper, they rock on.
With the backup girl singers swaying and the sidemen jiving on a variety of instruments, Robbie Limon, the Wayside "Buddy," smoothly delivers a string of Holly classics, from "Maybe Baby" to "Johnny B. Goode."
As Valens, Vaughn Irving contributes a frenetic "La Bamba" and Richard Follett, sporting a snazzy leopard-spotted dinner jacket, delivers the Bopper's signature "Chantilly Lace" with verve.
Follett, who earlier does a clever turn as a self-satisfied British newsman, adds a flute and saxophone to the eclectic ensemble, which also includes trumpets and David Maga's dazzling keyboard technique. Flamboyant touches are supplied by Clay Arthur, who both "rides" his bass fiddle and plays it while holding it horizontally above his head, a trick Limon mimics with his guitar.
Although the rest of "Buddy" can't match the frantic finale, the story, written by Alan Janes and Rob Bettinson, is an amiable look at Holly's life and, most pointedly, his determination to play that new-fangled, scandalous rock 'n' roll. The cast, directed by Warner Crocker, ably handles the various episodes: the inevitable conflicts with record producers and tensions among Holly and his group, the Crickets, and his spur-of-the-moment marriage.
"Holly," however, is all about Holly's music, but Limon supplies a winning portrayal, well-matched by the other actors in a variety of roles.
"Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story" continues through March 13. The box office phone number is 869-1776.