Broadway In Chicago is happy to introduce “Short and Sweet,” a quick view of our shows courtesy of Diana Martinez, who will give you the lowdown on Broadway In Chicago productions from the perspective of an audience member. Diana has more than 25 years of experience as an entertainment executive, most recently as President of The Second City. She has directed and produced over 40 live Broadway musical theatre shows and has presented more than 350 world-class Broadway national tours, dance, headline comedians and concert. We hope you enjoy this quick insight into our shows, and since this is all about our audience, share your own thoughts with us in the comments below.
“Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story” – It’s all about the music.
When the lights came up on the opening night cast of “Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story,” I spent the first few minutes in awe of how well the cast seemed to “mime” playing instruments and how well synced they were with band in the orchestra pit. Then I realized… “They are all playing live up there!” This production features a truly multi-talented cast of quadruple threats who cannot only sing, act, and dance, but are also musicians who can hammer out rock ‘n’ roll. The harmonies are tight and the voices of this mighty ensemble (many actors play a variety of roles) are impressive. This production puts the focus on what Buddy probably would have wanted them to focus on – the music, performed by a great cast who deliver with conviction and passion for rock ‘n’ roll.
This show, centered on the life and rise to fame of music pioneer Buddy Holly and his band The Crickets, is well
performed. Andy Christopher portrays Holly as a nerdy, good old boy that is, unassuming – but deep inside a consummate artist driven and convicted by his passion to express himself in his own way. Christopher has the talent and the pipes to sell it. He steals your heart with his voice during an intimate scene where he unplugs and plays an acoustic rendition of“True Love Ways.” It’s here where you really see the depth and warmth of his voice, as it sails through the theater. The Crickets are perfectly performed by a dynamic duo. Sam Weber (bass) is charming and great physical comedian, while Joe Cogen (drums) is an amazing percussionist and has great comic timing. Each brings energy, laughs, and excitement to their scenes. I couldn’t take my eyes of Weber – he makes great choices and has some crazy athletic moves while playing a bass – he is impressive. Ryan Jagru plays an energized Ritchie Valens and delivers an electrifying rendition of “La Bamba” that brought down the house with a huge ovation.
The script focuses on how Holly crossed tough racial barriers through his sounds, which influenced artists for years to come. If Buddy Holly were alive today, I think he’d fit right into the Bucktown musician community; he was a man ahead of his time.
It wasn’t until the end of the show, that I realized that all of this happened in a such short time; it was about a year and half from Buddy’s first big hit “That’ll Be The Day” to his final concert and tragic death at the young age of 22. The opening night crowd all gasped in unison at the voice over played at the end of the show that emphasizes the tragedy, over the loss of Ritchie Valens at the young age of 17, and Holly at 22. The show brilliantly comes back with a raucous rendition of “Johnny B. Goode” that brought the entire theater to its feet dancing, singing, and clapping.
The show lasts only about two-and-half-hours and is the perfect family show, or a gift to any musician in your life. On opening night an older man across the aisle lept to his feet during “Johnny B. Goode.” He started to dance and sing along, and I saw a glimpse of the young man he was, and witnessed how that music touched something deep inside of him that brought him to his back to a very special time. But after all… isn’t that was rock ‘n’ roll is meant to do?