Early February 1959; Montreal was in a deep freeze, constantly around -27°F. My car-poolers kept commenting that my Studebaker had a central heater so the back seat also received warmth. Tuesday February 3rd was just another frigid day; too cold to pay much attention to the CFCF news about a crash in Clear Lake. Charles Holley -22; Jiles Richardson aged 28; and 18 year-old Richard Valenzuela, failed to register.
The afternoon’s Montreal Star gave more details…The Bopper; Buddy & Richie Valens were dead.
No wonder we had been hearing so much “Crying, waiting, Hoping” and “Oh Donna”. Three composers, my contemporaries, had perished including the one who made “la Bamba’ even more popular than my Trini Lopez vinyl! It was ’the day the music died’.
“BUDDY, the Buddy Holly Story” was written by Alan Janes and is relatively faithful to the truth. Some of the more cutesy bits are omitted, especially his meeting/proposal to Maria Elena, and their ‘regular folks’ life [post-Crickets], in Greenwich Village. Hanging out at ‘The Metropole’, or dancing at ‘Roseland’. I had been to both; seen them both, and wore the same ‘geeky’ glasses. The Lower Ossington Theatre has usurped The Randolph to stage a totally professional and no cut-corners presentation that is perfect. The actors ARE the musicians and director Charles Roy has captured not only the sound and style of the time but has grasped the essence of the period, milieu, and social situation endemic by the end of the Eisenhower era. His cast is impeccable; the crew faultless and both story & music reverberate.
As Buddy, Eric Bleyendaal must of necessity, be the pivot so the play belongs to both him and the role. His obvious respect for the character is not mimicry but rather a heartfelt tribute to both the person and to his memory. He and Roy have recreated the quintessential ambitions, desires and challenges that faced Holly. Bleyendaal receives remarkable support from his ‘Crickets’: – Justin Sorochan as Jerry – the guitarist; and Zachary Knowles as bass player Joe Mauldin. Both are fine musicians and are consummate actors never trying to upstage or scene-steal. Sorochan’s bit about changing a song’s name to Peggy Sue so that he can get laid may be mythic but rings of hormonal teenager. The trio’s split-up scene abetted by Jonathan Widdifield and final-straw impetus (one of the two strong roles played) by Victoria Kucher has a special veracity and pathos that is visceral.
Another two-fer actor whose contributions are quality is Nathan Younger’s Lubbock disk jockey role and his realistic Big Bopper interpretation. Stephanie Seaton is a credible Maria Elena as well as an ensemble Hayrider. We were especially floored by Shahi Cuffy’s Apollo hostess performance. F.Y.I., the actual Holly/Crickets reception was tepid and only applauded after quite a few numbers. An FYI p.s., Harlem’s premier theatre would accept white patrons IF they arrived in a mixed-race group!
Not since ‘Mamma Mia’ has my muse gone into an aisle to dance during a musical performance. Last night we jitterbugged along with the majority of the audience. We also belted out “La Bamba” with a dynamic Justin Darmanin’s Richie Valens. He sings; acts and dances up as much of a storm as did Lou Diamond Philips!
See this show, you’ll applaud, you’ll enjoy & you’ll leave singing. For fun; bring the following: –
♪ Para bailar La Bamba; Para bailar La Bamba; Se necessita una poca de gracia
Una poca de gracia Para mi, para ti, ay arriba, ay arriba Ay, arriba arriba
Por ti seré, por ti seré, por ti seré
Yo no soy marinero …Yo no soy marinero… soy capitan; Soy capitan; soy capitan
Bamba, Bamba – Bamba, Bamba – Bamba, bamba, bam ♪