SHOWING : April 09, 2009 - April 26, 2009
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The Man. The Music. The Legend. The world’s most successful rock 'n roll musical event of all time, now in its 19th year in London's West End, has played to 20 million people world-wide. Buddy is the biggest musical extravaganza we have ever done at GET. It tells the story of Buddy Holly and the three years (1956-59) during which he became the world's top recording artist. The show features over 20 hits including: "Peggy Sue," "That'll Be the Day," "Oh Boy," "Maybe Baby," "Everyday," and more. The finale features a fantastic dance party where Buddy is joined by the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens. Join us for this show-stopping season closer sure to have you dancing in the aisles!
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Tuesday, May 5, 2009 ||
Let it be admitted at the start, I am now a Buddy Holly fan, I have been a Buddy Holly fan for more years than he lived, I will probably be a Buddy Holly fan for as long as music stays alive. So, I approached Georgia Ensemble’s production of “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story” with anticipation, and not a few Great Expectations. I was not disappointed. This was a high-spirited, talent-filled pseudo-concert that worked as a showcase for Buddy Holly’s music. That it contained just enough “script” to enhance a few of the songs and give the actors some actual challenge was just icing on the cake.|
Essentially a “juke-box” musical, it passes my primary test for such an endeavor – it’s actually a bit better than a simple concert of the same material with the libretto enhancing the songs in ways mere mimicry could not. Admittedly plot-thin, the script concentrates on Buddy’s music, on his obsession with doing his songs “His Way,” and on the few incidents in his life that informed his hits. Moreover, there was nothing that undercut the songs, or felt forced or contrived. Other writers have complained that “The Crickets” disappeared from the plot with little explanation, but I found the little explanation given to be enough. The bulk of the second act was made up of Buddy’s final concert, in which the Crickets did not participate. I don’t think further explanation was necessary, simply because it really had nothing to do with that concert. Having the actors playing the Crickets part of band that backs up the final concert didn’t hurt.
Still, keeping the dialogue at a minimum lets the production wallow in the music. And it is a beautiful, happy wallow. Rob Lawhon gives quite possibly the best musical performance of the year, inhabiting Buddy Holly in deeper ways than a mere impression. I believed his passion about music, his impulsiveness and playfulness, and, most important, his musicianship. Playing his guitar like a hero, Mr. Lawhon appeared to be channeling the real Buddy -- he dominated the show like no one else I can imagine.
The rest of the cast disappears equally into their roles. I have to give credit to Ryan Richardson and Mark Schroeder for giving the Crickets individuality with minimal dialog (is there any musical instrument Mr. Schroeder can’t play better than anyone else?). I also have to praise Dolph Amick and Ricardo Aponte for bringing powerhouse energy to their single-number roles (The Big Bopper and Richie Valens), to Cadillac Jack for performing the lion’s share of exposition as Disc Jockey Hipockets Duncan, and to the rest of cast for playing multiple roles with precision and distinction (Denise Arribas, Tim Batten, Bethany Irby, Tameka Scotton, Phillip Justman, and Matt Lewis). This is a wonderful ensemble, and I hope they get commended as such.
But this is first, and foremost, Rob Lawhon's show. He gives equal plausibility, equal commitment to the early Crickets hits, the hard-rocking full-tilt-boogie later stuff, and the soft and gentle ballads. I especially liked his acoustic rendition of “True Loves Ways” sung to his wife Maria on the eve of his last concert tour. I can’t praise his work enough, here.
The lesson drawn from this play is quite simple – true greatness comes with total commitment to your vision, to your insistence on doing things “your way,” even when the “experts” disagree. But lessons and themes are afterthoughts to what this play is really about – A celebration of the short life and timeless talent of Buddy Holly. In that, it succeeds better than any “jukebox” musical I’ve seen. Even my normal pickiness about lighting choices – here there are many computer-driven 21st-century effects that could never have been produced in the 1950’s – will be left at the door.
My “Rave On” may be informed by my long-standing fondness for these songs. On the other hand, because of my fondness for it, I’d been disappointed by earlier versions, such as the Gary Busey movie and a touring production of this show I saw a bunch of years ago. So, do you honestly think I’d let a sub-standard production pass critical muster?
That’ll Be the Day!
-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)
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Tuesday, April 21, 2009 ||
This is the closing week for "Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story" at Georgia Ensemble, and if you're looking for a great evening, drive your Chevy to levee, er...Roswell, and grab a seat.|
I'm always happy when actors I admire surprise me by exceeding what I know they're capable of, and this cast does it repeatedly. The wonderful Rob Lawhon takes the stage as Buddy and, for the next two hours, nails it again and again, knocking out 20 or more classics, along with the Crickets (Mark Schroeder on bass, and Ryan Richardson - also the show's Music Director - on drums).
Several other cast members are also pulling double duty. Not only did Ricardo Aponte choreograph, but he stops the show as Richie Valens, performing "La Bamba." And Bethany Irby, who just dazzled Marietta audiences in the Lyric Theatre's "The IT Girl," not only sings and acts here, but goes all Jerry Lee Lewis on piano in the shows second act. An earlier scene at Harlem's Apollo Theatre gives Tameka Scotton a bully pulpit for her amazing voice.
Act II is staged as a concert featuring Buddy, Richie Valens, The Big Bopper (the multi-talented Dolph Amick) and others, and the audience is....The Audience! An area has been cleared down front for dancing, and on the night I was there it was full, and many of those patrons who chose to stay at their seats were on their feet anyway.
Can you tell I had a good time? Is this show great art? No. Is it great theatre? No. Is it one heckuva lot of fun? Absolutely. You're not going to be educated, or preached at, or made to think at this show. You're going to be entertained. Very entertained. It's so easy to fall in love with this production. Director Bob Farley has given his audience a grand incentive to come back next season. Or sooner? How about this weekend! [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
| || Rave On by Bill Mann|
| I loved every minute and so did everyone around us. The audience was mostly of my generation but every age was there and we all loved the show. I have never seen so many feet keeping time with the music as I saw there.|
If you can get a ticket, this is a Great evening.
I would give the show a 5.5.
| || Wanted more plot by Girl|
| I'm not going to post a review of my own since there is definitely some bias, but I just wanted to throw it out there that I wanted a bit more plot. The music was awesome, but the amount of plot was just a little weird. There was some, but not enough to tell the story well.|
| || Plot by GSpelvin|
| Girl, you'll get more plot if you see the show in London, where it's still playing. Apparently, a substantial amount of the book was cut when preparing the GET production, because a)it's not especially well-written, b) it would make the show last nearly three hours, and c) most people are just there for the music anyway. |
Secondly, I don't think you should ever shy away from sharing your opinion just because it might differ from those already expressed. It's not a matter of bias - that's just the way we felt, and this forum is at its best, I think, when opposing views are offered.
| || Actually... by Girl|
| I'm married to one of the Crickets, so I am biased. ;) I think Mark would tell you that I still tend to be pretty honest, but I doubt anyone would believe me if I were to critique anything more than the plot.|
Mark did tell me that he knew the book had been cut down, but he wasn't sure what had been cut. I'd be curious to find out. And honestly, I could have done with a few less songs for a bit more plot. But I realize I'm probably in the minority.
| || Bias okay by Dedalus|
| IMHO, you shouldn't shy from comments even if you're biased, as long as you make your biases clear as part of the column. It's difficult to go into any production with absolutely no biases, and, personally, I think critics who attempt full objectivity are fighting a losing (and unnecessary) battle. Passion should inform writing, not be drained from it.|
| || Well said by all by BenAround|
| Absolutely, Girl and Dedalus, this site should be more for expressing honest opionions without worrying about bias, who you know in the show, grinding axes, etc.|
It is not only difficult, IMHO, but impossible not to have some bias (well, at least preference) on any show. Whether you have seen a previous production of it, have worked with a particular actor in it, enjoy the direction of the one at the helm, or even talked to a friend about the subject matter being displayed, there is bound to be some opinion upon entering the theatre.
I always enjoy having my pre-conceived notions shattered (in a good way) when a show exceeds my expectation. I think actors and show people all feel that way about a show they have a connection to personally. I also think that those elements which detract from the production need to be mentioned. Girl needed more plot from the story, others didn't care about plot and only wanted music, and another group knew the story already so they were entertained exactly with what they got.
I tend to agree with Girl. I'll stay 3 hours to see a good show with enough story. Just give us a chance (or two) to stretch and come back refreshed for the next session. It's okay to leave us wondering at the end, but fill in the gaps in the middle.
As Dedalus put it so well, "Passion should inform writing, not be drained from it." I cannot agree more.
| || Girl Is Spot-On by playgoer|
| I agree wholeheartedly with Girl that some of the plot transitions in "Buddy Holly" were abrupt. The Crickets just left the scene with barely a mention. That was a great contrast to the couple of nice "plot" scenes with Maria Elena that followed. The scenes with Maria Elena (Denise Arribas) were actually my favorite part of the show. I'm not a fan of over-amplified music, so the quieter portions of the show actually got more of my attention.|
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