Buddy Holly remains a legend to this day, long after his death on Feb. 3, 1959 – the Day the Music Died.
His music and his life are the focus as Drayton Entertainment launches its summer season with the musical Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story at the Drayton Festival Theatre.
The musical tells the story of Buddy Holly, the legendary, pioneering rock musician who rose to fame and became world famous within two years. Then it all ended abruptly when he was killed in a plane crash at the age of 22 along with Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper.
“We’re seeing Buddy’s 18 months of rise to fame starting from the early days of him in Lubbock, Texas on Hayrider shows and the early days of discovering his sound and his rock and roll. And then just showing people the speed and just how quickly he rose to fame and then how quickly it was all taken away,” said Tyler Check, the Toronto-based actor who plays Holly.
Check says playing the famous musician is a powerful experience, and that performing in the Buddy Holly musical requires such a specific and accomplished skillset of both musicianship and acting, that there are limited number of people in Canada who are able to do it.
“I grew up doing musical theatre and was never much of a dancer, but always played instruments, always played guitar, always played electric guitar. So shows like this specifically, they just marry the whole acting and the telling of the story with the live music in such a beautiful way. All the actors on stage play their own instruments – there’s no orchestra, there’s no band for the show. It’s all us.
“So there’s this live visceralness that comes from the rock ‘n’ roll happening on stage by us. No matter how long I do the show or how many productions, every night when we’re on stage doing those concerts together, I find it really powerful.”
Lucy Thomas, 15, of Conestogo performs as one of the rotating youth in the production’s youth chorus.
“We’re in a couple of the big dance numbers and a couple of the big group scenes, mostly in the finale of the show, which is a big concert medley at the end. And then also in the beginning in the opening numbers. It’s really fun,” she said.
Thomas auditioned in early March and started rehearsals in early May. The challenge for her has been balancing the musical with schoolwork.
“The best parts have definitely been making friends with the rest of my cast. That’s been really fun. Also, just being in the show, in general, is a blast. All the dance numbers were super fun, all the scenes we’re in are fun. In general, I just love doing it.”
This is Check’s second time performing in the Buddy Holly musical. He says this time around, he was able to pay more attention to the meaning of Holly’s accomplishments.
“The first time [performing in the musical] was just like getting shot out of a cannon,” he said. He had to really focus on learning all the material and being able to perform it and showcase it as best as he could.
Now the second time around, he is able to focus. “[I’m] able to feel it and be in it a little bit more,” Check said. “And it just made me realize what a powerful performer he was; what a special person he was.”
“He was only famous for, like, 18 months before he died, and he had multiple gold records at that point. It was just hit after hit after hit.
“And the music also grew in that 18 months. When he was 19 and just starting out, they were great songs, but they were very early, very simple rock songs. And even a year-and-a-half, almost two years later, the music he was putting out at 21, 22 years old was just so switched on, so next level, it gets me emotional sometimes thinking about what he would have done for the world and for music had he not been snuffed out when he was.”
Drayton Entertainment’s production of Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story runs through June 10. For more information and tickets, call the box office at 519-638-555 or visit www.draytonentertainment.com.
“People should come see Buddy Holly because the music is great, the dancing is great, the people in the show are great. It’s a really fun thing to watch, it’s a really fun thing to be in. And I highly recommend coming to watch it,” said Thomas.
“Every night, 12, 13 people are coming together and telling a really beautiful story together with live music right there in front of you,” said Check. “And you’re just as much a part of it, the Drayton venue is so nice and intimate. It’s just a really beautiful night of music and humanity.”