In 1959, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. Richardson (The Big Bopper) died in a plane crash. Often referred to as “the day the music died,” their untimely deaths left legions of yearning fans wondering what might have been.
Perhaps that is one reason why, in nostalgia factor alone, the Cape Fear Regional Theatre production of the bio-musical Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story feels all right.
The show starts with a young Buddy Holly and his band, The Crickets, performing for Hipockets Duncan, a disc jockey in Lubbock, Texas credited with discovering the group. Hipockets is portrayed here by Mikey LoBalsamo, whose genuineness (and omniscient lens) venerates Holly and the show. Hipockets memorializes Holly’s life over two years, during which the singer recorded some of his most famous songs, including That’ll Be The Day and Peggy Sue.
As the young phenom, Keaton Eckhoff dons Holly’s dark-rimmed glasses and boyish charm with the familiarity of an old suit, which isn’t surprising since he played Holly on the national tour. The first act ends with Holly appearing at the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem and a rousing rendition of Shout performed by Ayana Washington. Though the second act gets weighed down in some oversentimental dialogue, it is reawakened by Paul Urriola’s portrayal of Ritchie Valens and his version of La Bamba.
This production is directed by Suzanne Agin but lacks some of the spirit and oomph of Cape Fear Regional Theatre’s production of Memphis, which Agin also directed.
Still, like the aforementioned, Buddy evokes a dewy-eyed portrait of yesteryear and depicts a country on the brink of social and cultural change, which isn’t a far cry from where America is right now.
Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story runs through Sunday at Cape Fear Regional Theatre in Fayetteville. For more information visit https://www.cfrt.org/.
For a listing of upcoming Triangle theater events, visit our Calendar Page.