Thursday, August 6, 2015

reviews - BUDDY, THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY - Fountain Hills Theater

Jack Lambert (center) with Javone Patton andEnrique D. Lara
Photo: Carol Carroll / Fountain Hills Theater
highlights from local critics reviews - (click link at bottom of each review to read complete review)

Click here for more information on this production that runs through August 16th.

 "Buddy - the Buddy Holly Story is a slim musical biography that tells the story of the legendary rocker from his rise to fame at the age of 21 to his untimely death, just two years later, in 1959. While Alan Janes' book is slight, hearing over a dozen of Holly's hits plus other well-known tunes from the era, played by some exceptionally gifted musicians, results in a rocking good time, and Fountain Hills Theater's production is a winner with a stellar performance from Jack Lambert as Holly.  The musical follows Holly from his teen years in Lubbock, Texas, where he preferred to play rock over country, through the recording of his many hit songs with producer Norman Petty. It also briefly touches on the tragic plane crash that took his life after his meteoric rise to the top of the charts. That accident, forever immortalized in the song "American Pie" and dubbed "The Day the Music Died," as it also took the lives of fellow rockers Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper), doesn't overshadow the upbeat nature of the story but adds a touching footnote on just how short Holly's life was...While Jack Lambert may not quite have Holly's signature gangly frame and dorky looks, he perfectly exhibits the lovable, infectious intensity and rambunctious traits Holly was known for and that were captured on his appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show." Lambert also delivers an almost perfect mimicry of Holly's trademark singing style, full of vocal hiccups and a soulful energy. His guitar skills are impressive as well, including a superbly played, and sung, second act solo of "True Love Ways." Lambert also exudes a huge dose of charm and spontaneity that, when combined with everything else he brings to the part, makes you feel like you've gone back in time to witness first-hand the rise of this legendary rocker....Sky Donovan a firecracker as Valens, singing a rousing version of "La Bamba," and Bill Bennett exceptionally joyful as the Big Bopper. Buddy doesn't dig too deep into Holly's past or his musical influences and also doesn't give much stage time to the behind the scenes drama, focusing solely on the creation of the music. This is all fine, but it means the supporting cast mainly portray two-dimensional characters...Under Hill's adept direction, the production rocks and rolls from start to finish but also affords several sweet moments that allow us to grasp Holly's connection with his fellow band members as well as his wife. ...Jay Melberg is to be commended for his skilled musical direction, especially since all of the actors play their own instruments, and play them very well.  Simply not just a biography of Holly, but more a tribute, Buddy - the Buddy Holly Story is a crowd-pleasing jukebox musical that does a good job in recreating the excitement around the early days of rock and roll. While you may not learn everything there is to know about Holly, the musical explodes into a full out concert, with the entire cast providing the musical accompaniment and singing backup, that has both the cast and the audience rocking out. The combination of that concert finale and Lambert's wonderful portrayal of Holly turn Fountain Hills Theater's production of Buddy - the Buddy Holly Story into a bolt of rock 'n' roll lightning."  -Gil Benbrook, Talkin' Broadway (click here to read the complete review)

"Peter J. Hill rocks and rolls with a punchy and spirited production of Buddy - the Buddy Holly Story, featuring Jack Lambert's flawless performance as the legendary singing idol. Hill knows how to throw a party and, under his direction and stellar set design, the stage of Fountain Hills Theater becomes a celebratory bandstand for the story and music of the kid from Lubbock, Texas whose short-lived career ensconced him in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and established him as one of the giants of the medium...Written by Alan Janes, it is a tale of sound and ironies, pelvic twists and career turns, and the risks of fame, all signifying the low and very high notes of one star's rise to grace.  His journey to fame is an all-too-short and winding road. It begins in the studio of KDAV where, when the DJ is away, Buddy and The Crickets will play rock to the consternation of the station's producers. Next is Nashville where Buddy's obstinacy and his determination to do his music his way strains his arrangement with Decca Records. It is repeat-disengagement-time until KDAV's DJ, "Hi-Pockets" Duncan (Alex Gonzalez), connects Buddy with Norman Petty (Hill) and all rock breaks loose....While there is a gnawing awareness of the tragedy that is to come on the day that the music died, the musical does not dwell on it. Rather, the house is shaking with finger-snapping and hand-clapping as Mr. Lambert and ensemble electrify the audience with Buddy's music. Lambert has Buddy's moves and voice range and hiccups down pat. Sky Donovan is like greased lightning as Valens. Bill Bennett is delightfully smooth as the Bopper. The entire cast has given us cause to celebrate Buddy's life and leave the theater with so many songs in our heart and on the tips of our lips.  Buddy is unequivocally a crowd-pleaser, and the broad grins of the audience provide proof-positive that this is a show to be seen and relished."  -Herbert Paine, Broadway World (click here to read the complete review)

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