Quote of the Day: Although “Buddy” is a fun night out, it also allows us to witness how music can bring people together and possibly serves as a tool to heal our often-wounded souls. Ron Peluso, Artist Director of the History Theatre, and director of the popular Buddy! The Buddy Holly Story, playing through October 30, 2022. 

Shows about musicians rank among my favorites. Buddy! The Buddy Holly Story is sweet and sad. When you think of how young he was when he died in that terrible plane crash on Feb. 3, 1959, and that his professional career spanned only 18 months, you marvel at the impact his music had on the world and wonder how much more he could have done. The History Theatre first presented Buddy in 2009, and again in 2010, 2014, and 2015. It’s a show you can watch over and over, reliving Buddy’s short career. 

Buddy Holly at Clear Lake’s Surf Ballroom. Nicholas Freeman as Buddy. Photo: Rick Spaulding

Nicholas Freeman returns to his role as Buddy, giving the young man charm and spirit, and delivering his music with all the heart and soul. His bandmates, The Crickets, Joe Mauldin (Matt McIntyre) and Jerry Allison (Adam Gauger) are talented and have a wonderful rapport with their leader-singer-songwriter. They have some fun playful moments, as well as typical band arguments. They split up before Buddy plays his final performance.

T. Mychael Rambo draws us into the show with an acapella rendition of the opening of “The Day the Music Died.” He also plays Jack Daw and the Apollo Emcee. He has so much charisma on stage, it’s hard not to watch him the whole time. He has some great solo and ensemble numbers as well. Monica E. Scott kills on the vocals as a singer at the Apollo. This scene stands out as the Apollo audience was typically all black and they were surprised that the band The Crickets was all white boys. It took a little coaxing (more than one performance there) to be accepted, but they were, and some of the segregation barriers were bridged. Buddy was known to support the Black artists that travelled with him, and when they were forced to stay at separate hotels, Buddy would stay with them.

The Apollo Theater Emcee and singer perform. T. Mychael Rambo and Monica E. Scott. Photo: Rick Spaulding

Fernanda Badeo is in the ensemble and plays Buddy’s wife Maria Elena, whom he meets and proposes to on the same day! She was darling in this role, and I shed a few tears for her when her young husband dies. To add to her grief, she lost the baby she was carrying. 

Fernando Collado is also in the ensemble and plays the even younger Ritchie Valens. I loved his rendition of La Bamba, and when the radio DJ announces that he was only 17-years-old when he died, I teared up again. Also, on that fateful plane crash was J.P. Richardson, The Big Bopper (Brendan Nelson Finn), known for his booming voice and the fun song Chantilly Lace, which the ensemble rocked! They were all terrific, portraying the teens and fans of the times. Great dancing (choreography by Jan Puffer) and music direction (by Gary Rue). Jake Endres blows us away on the keys, and all the actors who play live music on stage impress. Brandon Petron plays the 4th Cricket (didn’t he have a name?), and Laurie Flanigan Hegge steps in to rock the keys, both the big piano and the toy one on Every Day, a favorite. 

Ritchie Valens at Clear Lake’s Surf Ballroom. Fernando Collado as Ritchie, Laura Flannigan Hegge and Adam Gauger on drums. Photo: Rick Spaulding

The songs and personalities of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens live on through popular culture. I drove home singing the tunes and playing the oldies. They represent a time of change in America, and with their music they helped to build bridges between people. Not without pushback, but they were strong and talented and let the music speak for them.

I hope you get a chance to attend a performance of Buddy! Dynamic set by Justin Hooper makes you feel like you’re really part of the audience at the various venues, and we’re encouraged to clap, cheer, and sing along at times. Lighting design by Chris Johnson really highlights scenes, especially when Buddy plays his final chords. Beautiful costumes by Kathy Kohl. This is one of the last shows that Artistic Director Ron Peluso will direct before he retires at the end of the year. I personally want to thank him for all he’s done for theater and for lifting up the varied voices of Minnesotans. The History Theatre is a class act that deserves all its accolades. 

For tickets and showtimes, visit the History Theatre website.

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: What’s your favorite Buddy Holly song?