By KIM HWANG
ST. PAUL (June 3, 2013) — The Buddy Holly Show reminded me that we should never underestimate the power and influence of great music in politics or history. Holly’s legacy and short-lived career underscored that music is a universal language that speaks to our hearts and minds. The story of his life included a mixed marriage to his Latino wife (Maria Elena), the promotion of the Latino entertainer Ritchie Valens and integrating White performers at the famous Apollo Theater. More often than not Holly’s talent brought people together. This was the awe inspiring message I left with after attending the Broadway show at the St. Paul, Ordway Theater.
Dr Martin Luther King Junior once stated, “Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world a better place.” This quote parallels Buddy Holly’s life. While he died in a tragic plane crash at the very young age of 22 years old, he certainly made his time as a musician and songwriter matter to the world. He wrote well-known songs such as, “That’ll Be The Day,” and “Peggy Sue,” which by the end of the show brought the audience at the Ordway Theater to their feet.
Buddy was directed and choreographed by, Norb Joerder with creative consultation by Matt Salisbury and music direction by John Banister. Currently alternating in the title role of Buddy Holly were Andy Christopher and Kurt Jenkins. The cast also featured Joe Cosmo Cogen (Jerry Allison), Ryan G. Dunkin (The Big Bopper), Ryan Jagru (Ritchie Valens), and Sam Weber (Joe B. Mauldin) with Eric Scott Anthony, Greg Bosworth, Jennifer Drew, Steve Gagliastro, Noellia Hernandez, Carrie A. Johnson, Carolyn Malfa, Sean McGibbon, Lacretta Nicole, and T. Scott Ross.
This cast’s astonishing enthusiasm remained constant throughout the performance, each performer possessed a unique set of magical talents and amazing abilities. Even the bass player was phenomenally acrobatic, while playing a diverse range of pieces throughout the evening. The premier highlighted a legacy of Rock and roll’s greatest hits of Buddy Holly’s legacy, which dominated our undying attention.
Whether it was racial segregation, religious perspectives or cultural differences, the Buddy Holly Show inspired me to think about all three of these topics. I had not anticipated this prior to the show. The unfolding storyline revealed inconceivable racial divides and barriers, which visibly showed Holly having to adapt to struggles that people of color faced in the 1950’s. Marrying a Latino woman, he was forced to face the ugly reality of racial hatred and discrimination through the lens of his wife, Maria Elena. At the same time, the show revealed a positive spirit of hope that lived within him.
The show revealed Holly’s relentless pursuit of writing music and performing live. The actor who played Holly was truly unstoppable. Despite discouraging words from others and haters, Holly persevered. His hard work and mind-blowing talent paid off. In 1957, he recorded his first #1 hit, “That’ll Be the Day,” with the Crickets. This saying was taken from his favorite John Wayne Movie, in which Mr. Wayne stated in exasperation, “That’ll Be the Day.”
The Buddy Holly show was crammed with unbelievable talent. The performance featured a diverse array of musicians including a violinist, pianist, an amazing bass player and guitarists that immediately captured everyone’s attention. The vocalists sang an incredible range of songs, which included rock and roll, country, soul and Latin music. Dancers, actors, performers and sets instantly transported me back to a time of racial segregation and hope, all at the same time. The Buddy Holly Show underscored a time old message, which is that music remains a universal language that continues to bring people together.
By the end of the performance, the Broadway cast stimulated the audience to dance, clap and sing along. I was pleasantly surprised to learn as much about Holly’s life as I did. I was reminded by the jam-packed performance that music transports us beyond our wildest imagination, lifts our spirits and transcends people to move beyond racial barriers. Holly’s life captivated the audience with talent and a story line that prompted me to remember that life is too short to be held prisoner by our perceptions of differences versus our shared passion for enjoyment.