For those theater-goers or out-of-towners who can't get tickets to "Jersey Boys," or for audiences who want to experience yet another jukebox musical that traces the roots of a musical pioneer, this transfer from Drury Lane Oakbrook to Drury Lane Water Tower is tailor-made for you. It's slick and stylish, but full of heart, and it's filled with over 25 country, rockabilly and rock 'n' roll classics. In addition to enjoying the music you'll learn a lot about the beginnings of rock music and the recording industry, not to mention quite a bit about young Buddy Holly during the last two years of his short life.
This musical, which had its beginnings in London's West End back in 1989, has been lovingly directed and choreographed by Tammy Mader and the musical direction and re-orchestrations are by Malcolm Ruhl. Tatjana Radisc's authentic costumes bring back memories of the 1950s and Brian Sidney Bembridge's fluid scenic design takes us from Lubbock, Texas to Nashville, Tennessee, over to The Apollo Theatre in Harlem and finally to the Surf Ballroom in Clearlake, Iowa, Buddy Holly's final concert.
This musical journey not only evokes memories for baby boomers, but it introduces audiences to a number of Holly's contemporaries. Most notable are Holly's talented backup singers/instrumentalists: Joe B. on bass (played by Cody Siragusa), Tommy on acoustic guitar (played by Alan Schmuckler) and the feisty percussionist Jerry (played by Jim Barclay). The Apollo Theatre MC and singers are nicely played by John Steven Crowley, Lili-Anne Brown, the sultry Karen Marie Richardson and Neda Spears, all of whom sing and dance up a storm that brings down the first act curtain. And in the second act Casey Campbell does a great impersonation of The Big Bopper singing "Chantilly Lace," and Tony Sancho is all vibrating energy as Ritchie Valens leading the audience in a rousing "La Bamba."
But this show deservedly belongs almost totally to Justin Berkobien as Buddy Holly. His portrayal is smooth, confident and charming. He's sweet and innocent at first, but he gradually develops into a shrewd musical star with the savvy to handle music managers, DJs and recording studio technicians. Berkobien can sing—and sing very well—but can he play the guitar, too! In fact every bit of the accompaniment is provided live and on stage by members of the cast; you'd swear you were seeing and hearing old news footage of these famous rock 'n' roll headliners.
It's guaranteed that you'll leave the theater humming some of the old favorites like "Peggy Sue," "That'll Be the Day," "Why Do Fools Fall in Love," "Maybe Baby," "Oh Boy!" and "Johnny B. Goode." And if you don't suddenly feel like slipping into your crinoline or slicking your hair back and donning your blue suede shoes and dancing up a storm, you just might want to have someone check your pulse.