‘Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story’ coming to CAC
Earlier this week, fans of rock ‘n’ roll music observed the 61st anniversary of “The Day the Music Died.” It was on February 3, 1959, that three pioneers of American rock music — Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “Big Bopper” Richardson — died in a plane crash outside of Clear Lake, Iowa.
Later this month, those in the area will get to relive the music of these legends in person, when “Buddy — The Buddy Holly Story” comes to town. The touring jukebox musical, which enjoyed extended runs in London’s West End and on Broadway, scheduled a last-minute performance for 3 p.m. Feb. 23 at the Community Arts Center, 220 West Fourth Street.
“This show is such fun, it’s awesome,” said Steve Steiner, director of the program. “The music is great, and Buddy was a wonderful and youthful guy that changed rock ‘n’ roll, and was really in on inventing it to a degree. He was doing things in rock ‘n’ roll that the others just weren’t doing.”
Though Steiner has been serving as the director of “Buddy” since 2009, his ties to the show go back much further than that. When the program landed on Broadway back in 1990, Steiner was among the performers, portraying music publisher and executive Murray Deutch.
Steiner said the reason the show has enjoyed 30-plus years of longevity and has been viewed by more than 22 million music fans is because it’s the type of show that leaves people wanting more.
“There are a lot of reasons the show endures,” Steiner said. “When we did the Broadway company, and pretty much every other company I’ve seen, if we are some place more than a few days, people come back to see it more than once.
“There are people who will come see it in Williamsport because they saw it some place else, and they can’t wait to see it again,” he added.
According to Steiner, “Buddy” captivates its audiences from start to finish, but his favorite part of the performance is the big concert portion at the end. The last 35 minutes of the program are a recreation of Holly’s final performance, which took place at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, on Feb. 2, 1959.
“One of the great things about ‘Buddy’ is that all of the actors are the musicians — there is no external orchestra, so everything is played live,” Steiner said. “So, all of the actors are playing, and you create each company kind of around the skills that the actors bring to it.
“That last 35 minutes, where you just get to rock out and have great music and great fun (is my favorite),” he added. “The audience is always on their feet at the end of the show, dancing in front of their seats.”
The performers that will bring “Buddy” to the CAC’s stage this month are all “extraordinary,” according to Steiner. Mentioning that most of them were handpicked for their parts in the show, he added that many of them also played the same roles with previous companies.
“It’s tough finding the actors that have the acting skills, comedic skills, the dancing skills and the musicianship to be able to play all of the music live every night,” he said. “So, it’s a triple-threat. It’s different than the normal triple-threat — sing, dance and act. This is sing, dance and play.”
Another difficult aspect of pulling the show together is recreating 1950’s music for an audience that is listening with 2020 ears, Steiner said. Because early rock recordings were sparse in terms of what is actually on the recording, the show needs to recreate the tunes in a way that sounds full, but accurately represents the way those songs were put together.
“It is challenging to make sure that the audience comes out hearing the ’50s songs,” Steiner said. “Everybody’s ears now are more sophisticated because of the recording techniques and the live sound techniques that we are capable of doing. We have to tread that line very carefully to make sure that it both sounds really good, and sounds like it did in those days. You can imagine the challenge in that.”
With more than two dozen well-known songs performed throughout the show, “Buddy” offers a true jukebox musical that lives up to the hype it has received from critics and fans alike.
“They advertise this show as ‘The world’s most successful rock ‘n’ roll musical,’ but it really is,” Steiner said. “It is really just a great, great time.”
For more information or tickets, visit caclive.com or call 570-326-2424.