Andrew Harvey as the title character in “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story” at Maine State Music Theatre. Photo by Jared Morneau Photography

On Feb. 3, 1959, three young rock ‘n’ roll pioneers met a tragic end, but their legacy and music lives on at Maine State Music Theatre whose foot-stomping, hip shaking rendition of “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story” is packed with talent and loads of fun.

Artistic Director Curt Dale Clark is celebrating his 10th season producing shows at Maine State and couldn’t resist bringing back the production, which sold out in 2014. “Buddy makes people happy, and I strongly feel that we all need a good dose of happiness these days,” Clark wrote in the show’s program.

Although the story ends tragically, Buddy Holly’s meteoric rise to fame is a feel-good romp through the era of bobby socks, poodle skirts and the birth of rock ‘n’ roll. It’s hard not to fall in love with the production and its infectious music that gets audiences on their feet and dancing, young and old.

The current rendition is directed – both production-wise and musically – and choreographed by Angela C. Howell, who also acts in the musical as Vi Petty, wife to the legendary record producer, Norman Petty (played by Luke Darnell). He’s among the few returning cast members, along with Jayson Elliott (as The Big Bopper) and Troy Valjean Rucker (Tyrone/Jones).

The jukebox musical is a combination of biographical tribute and live concert performance, with the onstage actors singing and playing the instruments on over 20 classic hits from the ’50s. Originally written for a cast of 32, Maine State’s 17 cast members slip in out of roles with awe-inspiring fluidity, adopting various accents and personalities.

Andrew Harvey stars as Buddy Holly. In dark-rimmed glasses, the tall, lanky actor/musician bears a striking resemblance to Holly, delivering a spirited performance that captures Holly’s relentless drive and passion for rock ‘n’ roll.


Harvey is backed by Ken Sandberg on drums and Noah Berry on stand-up bass, as his Cricket bandmates Jerry Allison and Joe B. Mauldin, and Mike Dorsey on guitar as the “fourth Cricket.” They are all multi-talented and a joy to watch as they deliver mini performances and reenact the recording sessions of Buddy Holly and The Crickets’ hit records. Berry provides additional entertainment by flipping his large bass in the air and perching on it while continuing to play.

A large screen at the back of the stage is beautifully utilized to enhance the fast-moving story.

The audience meets a lot of memorable characters along the story’s three-year journey, including Holly’s supportive DJ friend, Hipockets Duncan (Scott Wakefield); Holly’s wife, Maria Elena (Sarah Miramontes); the Apollo Theater performers (Jannie Jones and Rucker) and a scene-stealing beauty queen named Mary Lou Sokolof (Sarah Hund). Jones is unforgettable as the Apollo performer, eliciting a standing ovation for her soulful voice and fiery performance.

Justin Marriel Boyd deserves special recognition, stepping into his various roles for the duration of the run, just 72 hours before opening night.

The show’s energy kicks into high gear and full concert mode in the second act as the story winds to a close. It’s Feb. 2, 1959. Holly, The Big Bopper and Richie Valens (Diego Guevara) are playing their final concert at the Surf Ballroom and the Brunswick audience is transported back in time to witness that historic event.

Songs include “Chantilly Lace” (The Big Bopper), “Maybe Baby” and “Peggy Sue Got Married” (Buddy Holly and the Clearlake Band), and “La Bamba” (Valens, backed by Holly and the Clearlake Band). It’s a particular treat when the three join forces on “Rave On” and “Johnny B. Good.”

Elliott and Guevara are fabulously cast, with Elliott embodying The Big Bopper’s bigger-than-life personality and Guevara channeling Valens’ seductive dance moves.

“Buddy” is a delightful, well-staged production that old-time fans of ’50s rock ‘n’ roll and new listeners both can fall in love with. The production is uplifting fun, with encores that have the audience standing and singing along as the timeless rhythms of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Richie Valens take hold.

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

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