Friday, December 6, 2013
Kurt Jenkins knows a lot about music. Back home in Birmingham, Ala., he fronts the alternative indie-pop band Skyway Spirits.
Kurt Jenkins as Buddy Holly in the Ogunquit Playhouse Production of "Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story."
Ogunquit Playhouse photo by Julia Russell
"BUDDY: THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY"
WHEN: Previews at 2:30 p.m. Thursday. Opens at 8 p.m. Thursday and continues at 8 p.m. Friday, 8:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, 8 p.m. Wednesday and 2:30 and 8 p.m. Sept. 27. Through Oct. 21. The theater will add occasional Saturday matinees and Sunday evening performances. Check with the theater for details.
WHERE: Ogunquit Playhouse, 10 Main St.
HOW MUCH: $39 to $74
INFO: 646-5511; ogunquitplayhouse.org
BUDDY HOLLY created a body of music in a few short years that continues to influence all genres of pop more than 50 years later. Here are 10 essential tracks:
• “Rave On” – Bruce Springsteen and countless others do live versions of this cool pop rocker, which features some of Holly’s famous vocal gymnastics.
• “Maybe Baby” – One of the songs that established Holly’s signature twangy guitar sound. Can’t help but sing along.
• “Not Fade Away” – Timeless rocker that became The Rolling Stones’ first stateside single.
• “Well… All Right” – A more somber Holly is on display here. Although just a B-side (for “Heartbeat”), this tune has been covered by everyone from Blind Faith to Kid Rock.
• “That’ll Be the Day” – Maybe the best-known of Holly’s rockers, with a title inspired by the catchphrase used by John Wayne in the classic Western “The Searchers.”
• “Peggy Sue” – The basics of surf rock can be found in this classic, with its thumping drum beat and raw, rumbling guitar.
• “Everyday”– The lighter side of Holly, this is an extremely pretty song that became a hit for James Taylor in the mid-’80s.
• “It’s So Easy” – Nice guitar work on this one, plus a hook that is so catchy, you can’t get it out of your head. Which, in this case, is a good thing. Big hit for Linda Ronstadt in the ’70s.
• “True Love Ways” – Holly didn’t just write rockers, as evidenced by this soft, slow ballad sporting plenty of lush strings and horns.
• “Oh, Boy!” – I’ve saved the best for last. This-revved up silly rocker has it all – the fuzzy twang of the guitar, the doo-wop style background singing and Holly growling out the lead vocals.
– Ray Routhier, Staff Writer
But until he signed on to play Buddy Holly at Ogunquit Playhouse, he didn't know much about Holly, the Texas-born rock 'n' roll pioneer who died at age 22 in a 1959 plane crash.
"I knew about as much as the average person did," said Jenkins. "But I was not exposed to the details of his music or his life before this show."
"I guess it is his songwriting. That's what struck me, how both timeless and contemporary it is," he said. "A lot of the songs could be considered hits of today if they were given the chance. He was so ahead of the curve. A lot of people were writing music that sounded like that, but it did not have the aesthetic weight that his music did."
"Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story" opens Thursday evening and runs through Oct. 21 at Ogunquit Playhouse in southern Maine. It's the final show of the season at the playhouse, which celebrated its 80th season this year.
"Buddy" is a tribute musical packed with the songs that made Holly among the most influential rock stars of all time and one of the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: "Peggy Sue," "Oh, Boy!" "Maybe Baby" and "That'll Be the Day," among others.
The show is almost a concert experience, although there is quite a bit of dialogue and acting as well.
"The latter half of both acts are basically concerts," said Jenkins, who plays guitar on stage. "In those performances, I am basically being a musician. There are moments on stage when I smile at the other guys in the band and let out a hoot and a holler. That is not me pretending to be Buddy Holly. That is just me."
One of the challenges of this show was putting a band together. The actors on stage perform the songs themselves; there are no pit musicians.
In this production, Holly's band, The Crickets, is completed by Sam Weber, who plays bass player Joe B. Mauldin, and Joe "Cosmo" Cogen, who plays drummer Jerry Allison.
In addition to learning their roles for the stage, the trio also had to learn about each other as musicians. "Buddy" requires them to put a band together and develop a strong musical chemistry in just three weeks of rehearsals and a month-long run.
So far, so good, Jenkins said.
"It really does feel like a band," he said. "Both guys are extremely talented. Sam and Joe, they are great guys. We get along really well, and it's been quick fun."
Other members of the cast include Jayson Eliot as The Big Bopper, Ryan Jagru as Ritchie Valens and Luke Darnell as Holly's manager, Norm Petty. The Big Bopper and Valens died with Holly in a plane crash in an Iowa corn field on Feb. 3, 1959, following a concert in nearby Clear Lake. The Maine-based songwriter Don McLean memorialized their deaths in the iconic pop song "American Pie" in 1972.
The responsibility of getting the band in shape falls to John Bannister, who holds the title of music supervisor. He works for Buddy Worldwide LTD, the creators of the musical, and travels from site to site helping the actor-musicians with the music. He first joined the show in 1993 as a drummer.
A classically trained Brit, Bannister auditioned for the London run of the show knowing nothing about Holly. He showed up for work after accepting the job, but couldn't find the orchestra pit. "Where am I supposed to play?" he asked. "They said, 'On stage,' and from that moment on, I got the bug."
(Continued on page 2)
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Photo by Aaron Flacke