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The Buddy Holly Story

Musical reviews are, by their nature, thin on story and long on hits, and this is no exception, but what a parade of hits Buddy Holly created in the short time he was in the spotlight, before the famous crash that took his life and that of J.P. Richardson (the Big Bopper), Richie Valens, and the pilot.

Brett Ambler as Buddy Holly
Brett Ambler as Buddy Holly
Photo: Glenn Ross
All the highlights and challenges of Buddy's career—the resistance of country and western radio to rock 'n' roll (including Elvis Presley, Bill Haley and the Comets, and Buddy Holly and the Crickets), Buddy's split with his manager, and the breakup of the band—are packed beneath the arch of a giant Wurlitzer jukebox, framed by posters and 45s from the late '50's.

But how to imitate one of the rock 'n' roll's most famous icons? Hats off to BDT Stage for giving this a shot by putting together a live performance—Brett Ambler as Buddy Holly (guitar and vocals), Matt Gnojek as Jerry Allison (drums), and Brian Jackson as Joe B. Mauldin (double bass)—backed up by the house band in the last act, with original recordings occasionally serving as segues.

Brett Ambler as Buddy Holly
Brett Ambler as Buddy Holly
Photo: Glenn Ross
Ambler is dialed in on Holly's creative drive and uncomprimising artistic vision and, overall, the vocals by Ambler and the band were spot on, though the music was uneven, particulary with the uptempo rock numbers, where the beat was sometimes energized and driving and other times a little slow and lackluster. We expect for this to come around as the run continues.

The script doesn't call for any heavy dramatic lifting, which could have easily been handled by this talented group.

(Left to right) Brian Murray<br>as J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper), Brett Ambler as Buddy Holly, and Alejandro Roldan as Richie Valens
(L to R) Brian Murray
as J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper),
Brett Ambler as Buddy Holly,
and Alejandro Roldan as Richie Valens
Photo: Glenn Ross
Jessica Hindsley's choreography, for the backup singers and ensemble, was a fun sendup from the '50's (including live radio segments and commercials), and Amy Campion's wonderful and efficient set, as well as the usual fine craft work (fun costumes by Linda Morken and hair and wig designs by Debbie Spaur), make for a bright and poignant trip down memory lane, revisting one of rock 'n' rolls original breakthrough artists.

BDT Stage's presentation of The Buddy Holly Story runs through November 14th. For tickets: 303-449-6000 or bdtstage.com.

Bob Bows

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