Buddy Holly Story

Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story

The Muny, St. Louis

Reviewed by Isabelle Heidbreder
Reviewed July 13, 2015, runs through July 19

On a steamy opening night, under nonetheless benevolent skies (relative to the evening we watched My Fair Lady), The Muny celebrated the life and legacy of rock ‘n’ roll legend Buddy Holly. Having performed in St. Louis’ Kiel Auditorium in 1958, only about 10 months before “the day the music died,” Holly’s encore has been long-awaited. Indeed, if “22 is the new 12” in Buddy Holly’s era, then 22 years was a lifetime of pioneering in a world still beset by racial and social stereotypes. Despite having only three years and one month to leave his indelible mark, his musical influence lives on in the work of many artists who followed him in the last half of the 20th century, including Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Don McLean, and even the Grateful Dead. The plane crash in the winter of 1959 that took his life at 22 years young, no doubt robbed us of what was likely to be an award-winning lifetime of music. Indeed, in 2004 and 2005, Rolling Stone named Holly as 13th in their 100 Greatest Artists, ahead of Led Zeppelin, Otis Redding, U2, Marvin Gaye, and The Who!

That his memory is still fresh and his music still cherished was evidenced by the many Muny-goers who sang along and danced in their seats with the seemingly-indefatigable energy of Andy Christopher in the leading role. The audience rewarded the cast and crew for a fine, if not flawless performance (a short glitch with the stage turntable was remedied and the show went on…) with enthusiastic applause after each musical number. The debut of choreographer Josh Walden was a success with an as-expected nearly constant dance performance. The music played live on-stage was well-executed in arrangements suiting the time constraints: more than 20 of Holly’s best-known songs were performed as well as other chart-topping hits including Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode (which Holly performed as a cover during his lifetime), Ritchie Valens’ La Bamba, and J.P. Richardson’s Chantilly Lace.

The tragic ending of Holly’s life is implied in this production and the audience stood in tribute to this unfathomable talent, clapping and cheering, whistling and whooping, dancing and singing while the band played to his memory. Go see this sparkling eulogium to a true treasure of the modern musical arts! It plays at the Muni through July 19th and will be followed by Sondheim and Lapine’s mystical musical Into the Woods, July 21-27.

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