Leadership & Staff

2’s Review: Buddy Holly roars back to life at Florida Rep

by Dave Elias

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Buddy Holly had an all too short musical career but those of us who missed it are getting a second chance to see his musical talents brought back to life in “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story” at The Florida Repertory Theatre.

Actor Michael Perrie, Jr. is outstanding as Holly and not only does he look like him with the signature thick rimmed glasses, but his vocals are astounding and he never misses a beat or breaks character for a fraction of a second as he has mastered the character in this jukebox musical filled with iconic hits we all have an emotional connection to.

Perrie has masterfully crafted Holly’s unique singing style which was characterized by his vocal hiccups and his alteration between his regular voice and falsetto that created his stutter vocals which were complemented by his percussive guitar playing.

The show is a never ending stream of songs like “Peggy Sue”, “That’ll Be The Day” and “Send Me Some Lovin” to name only a few as the 11 member cast fills a number of roles but also serves as the live band playing electric guitars, piano, and bass.

The show undoubtedly transports you back to the 1950s when Buddy Holly and The Crickets were bound to play music their way in a high energy performance with actors Matt Cusack who plays Bass player Joe Mauldin, and Noah Berry who plays Jerry Allison on drums to round out the trio.

However the talent doesn’t stop there as the show is packed with an equally talented ensemble cast including actress Samantha Sayah who plays Holly’s wife Maria Elena and several other characters, Merritt David Janes showed his diversity by playing several characters too including Big Bopper and Armando Gutierrez has a high energy performance as Ritchie Valens who performs “La Bamba”.

It’s a tip of the hat production that Director Jason Parrish and Choreographer Amy Marie McCleary can be proud of.

The story begins with Holly’s quest and determination to make it in the rock industry despite his shift as a country artist with Decca Records. The Texas boy eventually travels to New Mexico to break into the rock industry and soon he’s traveling the country as he eventually meets his wife and sees his fame continue to grow.

The second act of the show centers primarily on Holly’s Winter Dance Party Tour with Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens and their final performance in Lake City, Iowa before their chartered plane crashed shortly after takeoff during a snowstorm on February 3, 1959.The concert ends with breaking news heard on the radio informing the public of the tragic accident that claimed all three rock icons as the spotlight fades on each of the three actors who are frozen in time.

You could hear a pin drop in the theater.

The action packed concert however continues with an active audience encouraged to participate in several of the songs.

A special mention must be given to actor Garrick Vaughan who plays Tyrone and others but his performance of “Shout” alongside Veronica Stern was a crowd pleaser along with the finale performance of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode”.

Even if you’re not a 50s rock fan this show will convert you!

It comes highly recommended if you’re looking for a good time that offers a lot of hits and will bring a lot of smiles and the opening night performance had the audience jumping to their feet in a rousing standing ovation pleading with actors for a few more songs before exiting.

“Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story” by Alan Janes runs through April 13th. at the Florida Repertory Theater. Tickets are available by calling the box office at 239-332-4488 and a special note that masks are now optional inside the 393 seat Arcade Theatre.