Hackmatack Playhouse’s barn has a fascinating history that includes a move across Route 9 to the Guptill farm in 1934 and an expansion into the playhouse in 1972. Now, Hackmatack is raising the barn roof with a set of rockin’ ’50s hits like “Peggy Sue Got Married,” “Oh Boy” and “Johnny B. Goode” as the playhouse recreates Buddy Holly’s iconic rise to stardom and untimely death in 1959 at age 22.

Theaters throughout Maine have staged the musical “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” with at least two slick productions in recent memory. What Hackmatack’s rendition, directed by Billy Butler, lacks in polish, it makes up for by doing what Hackmatack does best – charming the audience.

Saturday night’s performance got off to a slow start, but once the momentum kicked in, the audience was drawn into the fun-filled show. Some audience members were clearly unaccustomed to interacting with onstage performers, but the cast had them on their feet, singing along for the energetic finale.

“Buddy” isn’t the typical musical but rather a hybrid of biographical story and concert performance. The cast sings and plays all the instruments without the aid of a pit band or orchestra. It can be challenging to cast performers who have both the acting and musical chops to pull it off, but Hackmatack delivers with a cast that’s musically versatile, funny and often downright adorable.

Twenty-year-old North Carolina native Joshua Rubenstein stars as Buddy Holly, doling out the charm with a Southern accent and aw-shucks attitude that is punctuated by an infectious smile. Rubenstein isn’t exactly the classic choice for the role but manages to capture the essence of Holly’s look and sound, aided by a pair of black-rimmed glasses.

Thomas Jeffrey and Matt Walsh back Rubenstein on upright bass and drums as The Crickets – Joe B. Maudlin and Jerry Allison – with Thomas Hanlon portraying session guitarist Tommy Allsup. The band keeps the stage rocking, particularly in the second act.

Hackmatack has chosen a more diverse cast than usual to portray the story’s colorful characters. Highlights include Puerto Rican-born actress Ash Martinez as Buddy’s wife, Maria Elena; Will Lombard as the Lubbock, Texas, DJ Hipockets Duncan; and Jake Stibbe and Rachel Pantazis as Buddy’s record producer, Norman Petty, and his wife, Vi. Michael Fisher delivers a soulful performance as an Apollo performer, dueting with Dana Rose Eisman on a rousing rendition of “Shout.” The pair shakes things up, inciting audience participation while casting light on the racial prejudices of the time.

The cast is versatile, with several of the 15 members slipping into multiple roles or lending musical accompaniment on various instruments. Jeff Blanchette stands out, delivering an expressive sax solo on “True Love Ways.”

As the story winds down, the show kicks into full concert mode, adding Alec Paulson as the Big Bopper and Gian DiCostanzo as Ritchie Valens. Paulson embodies the Bopper, delivering the trademark deep vocals and bigger-than-life personality on “Chantilly Lace,” and DiCostanzo shows off his character’s hip-shaking moves on a high-energy rendition of “La Bamba.”

Hackmatack Playhouse’s “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story” is packed with humor and sweet moments. It’s an enjoyable way to experience the music of three legendary performers who most of us never had the opportunity to see perform live. Through productions like this, the music truly can “Rave On.”

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. Contact her at:

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Twitter: @ahboyle