The Night the Music Lived

Buddy Holly Story

Michael Perrie, Jr. as Buddy Holly

His career spanned a year and a half, but in that time he revolutionized rock and roll and left an indelible fingerprint that would inspire some of the greatest performers of all time.  His story is the focus of Buddy:  The Buddy Holly Story by Alan Janes and currently playing at Maples Repertory Theatre.

Janes’ script falls somewhere between a play and a jukebox musical.  Precious little of Holly’s life is covered in the show.  The play part focuses on certain key points in his life from his struggles as a teenager trying to become a rock star in the country music meccas of Texas and Nashville to his nabbing a recording contract with an open minded producer to his legendary Apollo performance to his whirlwind marriage to his break-up with the Crickets and, finally, to his final concert at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, IA.  Needless to say, the jukebox part focuses on Holly’s hits as well as numerous other hits of the day.

Tim Seib masterfully handles the dual direction required of the production.  He musters every ounce of story, nuance, and emotion from the story portion of the production.  In fact, I was incredibly impressed with his work for the romance between Holly and his wife, Maria Elena Santiago, which is the richest part of the story from an acting perspective.  Seib nabs an easy A+ directing the action of the musical part of the show which is good, old fashioned, pulse pounding rock and roll.

Some wonderful featured performances were supplied by Alan Gillespie as Norman Petty, the producer willing to allow Holly the chance to record music his way, but also lives up to his last name by attempting to screw Holly over by keeping the Crickets and taking the band name when Holly decides to change labels; Garrick Vaughan and Nissi Shalome as a pair of Apollo performers who give a rousing rendition of “Shout” and mercilessly heckle Holly and his band before their performance; Mike Brennan is an indefatigable cauldron of energy as J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson and excels with his solo in “Chantilly Lace”.

I’d also like to give some special notice to Alix Rhode who gives a subtle and moving performance as Maria Elena Santiago.  She is strong, bold, and so loving and supportive of Buddy and your heart breaks as you know her fears for Holly’s safety are all too true.

This show lives or dies by the performer playing Buddy Holly and Michael Perrie, Jr. admirably carries the load of this show on his shoulders.

Perrie IS Buddy Holly and practically reincarnates him in front of the eyes of the audience.  Not only does Perrie bear a remarkable physical similarity to the late singer, but he also effortlessly emulates his look, assumes his accent and speech cadences, and even gets that unique hiccup in his voice when he sings.

Perrie brings some serious acting chops to the role.  He manages to show Holly’s politeness and decency, but also his toughness as Holly wouldn’t back down from anyone when it came to his music.  He also well plays Holly’s free-spirited nature.  This was a man who always marched to his own beat no matter what anyone thought about his choices.  He also expertly handles the heartache of Buddy’s life, shedding real tears when the Crickets abandon him and, more or less, yank the band name from him.

Musically, Perrie is also outstanding.  He’s a guitar player par excellence and easily handled rock numbers such as “Not Fade Away”, “Oh, Boy!”, and “That’ll Be the Day”, but he was just as nimble and moving on the softer numbers such as “True Love Ways”, “Words of Love”, and “Heartbeat”.

Cullen Law’s musical direction was exceptional as he and his performers made these classic tunes their own.  Jack Smith’s costumes were superb, from the elegant suits for the men to the pretty gowns for the ladies. Ali Strelchun has created a nice three sided set with a massive band area at center stage, a small radio station at house left, and Petty’s tiny recording studio at house right.  Jess Fialko’s lights are spot on with colors and intensity matching the energy and emotions of the songs and an incredibly poignant blackout for The Day the Music Died.

I want to take a moment and applaud all of the actors for showing great poise under pressure as they battled microphone issues throughout the night, but steamrolled right over them.

Some music experts have argued that, had Holly’s life not been cut short, Buddymania may have ruled the world due to the breakthroughs he was making with music.  Though his life was tragically short, he left behind an amazing legacy that is still inspiring musicians today.  And if you want a taste of musical history and a fun filled time, go see this show.

Music Lived

The Day the Music Died (Left to right: Mike Brennan as the Big Bopper, Michael Perrie, Jr. as Buddy Holly, & Chase Tucker as Ritchie Valens)

Buddy:  The Buddy Holly Story plays at Maples Repertory Theatre through August 11.  Performances are at 2pm on July 28, 31 and August 2-4, 6, 10, 11 and 7:30pm on July 31, August 2, 4, 7, 9-10.  Tickets start at $24 and can be obtained at www.maplesrep.com or contacting the Box Office at 660-385-2924.  Maples Repertory Theatre is located at 102 N Rubey St in Macon, MO.

Pictures supplied through courtesy of Maples Repertory Theatre

This review is dedicated to the memory of Kay McGuigan.  We miss you, friend!

Revamped Rock Twist Set to Sizzle at OCP

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Omaha, NE.—Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist will open Friday, Aug. 2 at the Omaha Community Playhouse. The show will run in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre from Aug. 2 through 18. Performances will be held Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

A high-energy concoction of rock ‘n’ roll mega hits with a big band twist, Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist is a live concert experience covering everything from The Beach Boys to Billy Joel. This summer’s show features an all-new set list and introduces the Pop Rock Orchestra—a 15-piece lineup of all-star musicians.

MCGUIGAN’S 500TH PERFORMANCE

Billy McGuigan will celebrate his 500th Omaha Community Playhouse performance on Saturday, August 17 during Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist.

McGuigan, now an internationally-recognized touring musician, first appeared on the OCP stage in Sweet Charity in 1994. But it was his portrayal of Buddy Holly that truly jumpstarted his career. After starring in Buddy:  The Buddy Holly Story in 2002, McGuigan decided to produce his own original Buddy Holly tribute show, and Rave On! was born. The show was wildly successful, appearing in ten different seasons at OCP over the next two decades.

Lightning struck again for McGuigan with the creation of yet another OCP fan favorite—Yesterday & Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience. This iconic all-request Beatles tribute show has run for 12 consecutive seasons at OCP and is set to return for 2019.

Tickets to Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist—including McGuigan’s 500th show on August 17th—are available online at OmahaPlayhouse.com or through the OCP Box Office at (402) 553-0800 or 6915 Cass St., Omaha, NE 68132.  Tickets begin at $42 ($32 for season subscribers) and vary by performance and seating zone.

MRT Will Show You How it’s Gonna Be with ‘Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story’

Maples Repertory Theatre Presents:

Buddy:  The Buddy Holly Story by Alan James

Synopsis

Follow the incredible journey of Buddy Holly’s meteoric rise to the top of the record charts during the golden days of rock ‘n’ roll in this dynamic tribute musical. You’ll be cheering for more, with such rousing fifties favorites as “Peggy Sue,” “Oh Boy,” “Maybe Baby,” “That’ll Be the Day,” “Raining In My Heart,” Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba” and the Big Bopper’s “Chantilly Lace.” This joyous celebration of a musical legend has audiences on their feet in every corner of the globe and it will explode on the Royal Stage in a toe-tapping, hand-clapping extravaganza! “Oh Boy!”

Showtimes

  • Fri. July 19 – 7:30
  • Sat. July 20 – 2:00
  • Tues. July 23 – 2:00
  • Wed. July 24 – 2:00
  • Sat. July 27 – 7:30
  • Sun. July 28 – 2:00
  • Wed. July 31 – 2:00, 7:30
  • Fri. Aug. 2 – 2:00, 7:30
  • Sat. Aug. 3 – 2:00
  • Sun. Aug. 4 – 2:00, 7:30
  • Tues. Aug. 6 – 2:00
  • Wed. Aug. 7 – 7:30
  • Fri. Aug. 9 – 7:30
  • Sat. Aug. 10 – 2:00, 7:30
  • Sun. Aug. 11 – 2:00

Tickets start at $24 and can be obtained by contacting the Box Office at 660-385-2924 or visiting www.maplesrep.com.  Maples Repertory Theatre is located at 102 N Rubey St in Macon, MO.

Twist it Up, Billy

You are entering a fun dimension of sight and sound.  A world where rock tunes are performed like big band numbers and big band numbers are given a rock flair.  You are entering the Omaha Community Playhouse to watch Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist.

Yes, indeed, Billy McGuigan and his band have returned to OCP and they’re playing 60s hits (with a pinch of 70s and a smidge of 80s) in ways you’ve never heard them before.  “But, Chris,” I hear you say.  “Isn’t this just the same show as last year?”  And the answer is a most emphatic, “No!”  Not only does the show have a new set and lights courtesy of Jim Othuse and Tyler Packett, but they also have a new set list.  True, some of the hits from last year return, but there’s also plenty of new material so you can enjoy this show anew.

There’s something for everyone in this production as you’ll hear hits from Frank Sinatra, the Ronettes, Lulu, Billy Joel, Harry Connick, Jr., the Doors, Duke Ellington, and, yes, even the Beatles and Buddy Holly, plus more played as only the maestro of Omaha and his band can play them.

Billy McGuigan once again rules the stage with his killer stage presence and insane musical chops.  McGuigan is an artist of rare versatility who can smoothly glide from a Frank Sinatra number to a Doors hit just as easily as he switches from guitar to piano.  McGuigan constantly thrilled and energized the audience with varied hits such as smooth standard style songs like Frank Sinatra’s “Come Fly with Me” and Harry Connick Jr.’s “Come By Me”; hard rockers like “Live and Let Die” by Paul McCartney and Wings and the Guess Who’s “She’s Come Undone”; and soft ballads such as Buddy Holly’s “True Love Ways” and the Beatles’ “Here, There, and Everywhere”.

Co-starring with Billy is the one and only Tara Vaughan who spent the night tickling the ivories and shining in her own set of hits from powerful female singers.  You’ll thrill as Ms Vaughan’s sensuous alto belts out Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Were Made for Walking”, slows it down for the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby”, and invites you to go “Downtown” with Petula Clark.

This show couldn’t be done without the assistance of a stellar band which includes some of the finest musicians and singers in the city.  Backing vocals are supplied by Ryan & Matthew McGuigan and Jessica Errett.  Strings are provided by Christina Allred on cello and Olga Smola on violin and, prior to tonight, I was unaware at how well strings could be used on rock numbers.  Steve Gomez helps to drive the action with his bass while Max Meyer shows some Pete Townshendish ability with his guitar solos.  Patrick Brown and Andrew Janak soar on alto and tenor saxophone.  Janak also arranged all of the night’s incredible music.  Patrick Peters keeps the groove sliding with his trombone.  Tomm Roland keeps the beat as only he can on drums.  Last, but certainly not least, is local jazz legend, Doyle Tipler, trumpeting with all of his might.

If you haven’t seen a Billy McGuigan show yet, what on earth are you waiting for?  This show only has a limited two week run, so get a ticket while a ticket can still be got.  I promise you a great time with a show suitable for the young and young at heart.  The only way you couldn’t have fun is if you’re comatose and, even then, I bet your pulse would still be beating in time with the music.

Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist plays at the Omaha Community Playhouse through August 12.  Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets cost $42 and can be found at www.omahaplayhouse.com or www.ticketomaha.com or by calling OCP at 402-553-0800.  The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.

Masterful Musicians Make Magnificent Music

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Billy McGuigan and the Downliners (From left to right: Tara Vaughan, Ryan McGuigan, Matthew McGuigan, Billy McGuigan, Adam Stoltenberg, and Max Meyer)

Take a tour through the history of classic rock and roll as Billy McGuigan and his band play the hits from the 50s through the 70s in Rock Legends.  Last night Billy and his band, the Downliners, played a sold out, tour de force performance at the Davies Amphitheater in Glenwood, IA.

The show was actually billed as Rock Show, but was a variation of McGuigan’s Rock Legends production.  Billy McGuigan once more demonstrated his seemingly limitless musical talent with a pulse pounding, non-stop 90 minute ride that displays an encyclopedic knowledge of classic rock.  Billy and the Downliners played some of the biggest hits of the best known bands of the 50s-70s, but also included several one hit wonders and hits that simply don’t get much airplay nowadays.  Imbued with that inimitable McGuigan energy, one would swear that Billy and the band wrote all of these tunes themselves as the music seems so fresh and extemporaneous.

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Mark Irvin

The night’s entertainment opened up with Omaha singer/songwriter, Mark Irvin.  Irvin has a voice reminiscent of Bryan Adams and a stage presence similar to Roy Orbison.  It’s just a man, his guitar, and his music.  Irvin is a powerhouse talent whose warm tenor haunted the audience with original numbers such as “I Will Surrender to You”, “I Finally Got it Right”, and “Fly With Me”.  He also did an impressive cover of Kenny Loggins’ “Danny’s Song” that had the audience singing right along with him.  If you want to get a taste of Irvin’s talent, his music is available on Spotify, iTunes, and Amazon.

Then it was time for the featured act and Billy and company hit the ground running and never let up.

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Billy McGuigan

Billy McGuigan drove the night with his trademark wit and indefatigable energy.  He and his potent tenor went through an impressive range of high octane songs from “Bye, Bye Love” by the Everly Brothers to “Good Lovin’” by the Rascals to the first rock song, Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock”.  How he does this without wearing out, I’ll never know, but he did give himself a bit of a breather with a small set of slower songs capped with a particularly touching rendition of “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” by Gerry and the Pacemakers.

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Tara Vaughan

It’s as much fun to watch Tara Vaughan perform as it is to listen to her sing.  Performance wise, she reminds me of Bob Marley in the sense that, like him, she is totally immersed in the music.  She doesn’t just play the keyboards with her fingers, she plays with her whole body, heart, and soul.  And that sultry alto had me looking for a cold drink after some of her numbers.  Notable turns from her came with Lulu’s “To Sir, With Love”, a rocking rendition of the Gene Pitney penned Crystals hit, “He’s a Rebel”, and a dazzling take on “A Little Piece of My Heart” that would have made Janis Joplin proud.

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Ryan & Matthew McGuigan

Ryan & Matthew McGuigan nailed it in their time in the spotlight.  Ryan paid homage to John Lennon and the Beatles with his takes on “I Feel Fine” and the Lennon solo in “This Boy”.  Matthew got a chance to show some impressive versatility as he did The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer” before segueing into Elvis soundalike Terry Stafford’s one hit wonder, “Suspicions”.

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Adam Stoltenberg & Max Meyer

Solid support was provided in the forms of Max Meyer and Adam Stoltenberg.  Meyer provided a series of superb solos on lead guitar while Stoltenberg’s drum work set a crucial backbeat.  Both also got a moment to sing when they each took some verses in The Band’s “The Weight” which was sung by the entire band.

When people hear the name Billy McGuigan, some think Buddy Holly while others may think the Beatles.  When I hear the name, I think he’s one of the best musicians Omaha has ever produced.  Normally, this is the point where I encourage you to get a ticket.  Sadly this was a one night only concert, but fear not.  You have another chance to catch Bily and company in action when Billy McGuigan’s Rock Twist opens at the Omaha Playhouse on August 1.  The show runs through August 12 with performances running Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Contact OCP at 402-553-0800 or visit www.omahaplayhouse.com or www.ticketomaha.com for tickets.

But take my advice, when Rock Legends performs again, don’t miss it.  It’s awesome!

You’ll Wish this Show Would ‘Not Fade Away’

In the fall of 2002, a phenomenon was born.  The Omaha Playhouse presented Buddy:  The Buddy Holly Story starring Billy McGuigan.  Fueled by his dynamic performance as the iconic singer, the musical proceeded to smash Playhouse box office records and set Billy on a course as a full time professional performer.  Since that fateful fall, Billy McGuigan has taken his interpretation of Buddy Holly from coast to coast with nearly 2,000 performances and setting new box office records at 6 theatres.  Now he returns to where it all began with Rave On:  The Buddy Holly Experience currently playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

The show’s title sums up the show perfectly.  It is an experience and must be experienced in order to understand its grandeur.  Describing this show taxes my wordsmithing to the limit.  To say it is impressive seems a severe understatement.  Explosively awesome is the best description I can come up with and even that seems to fall just a little short.  To give you an idea of the might of this show, it received a standing ovation. . .after the first act.

McGuigan shows himself to be a true auteur with this show as he wrote, produced, directed, and starred in it.  It is neither a play nor a jukebox musical.  It is a character concert.

McGuigan does not play Buddy Holly.  No, no, no.  He BECOMES Buddy Holly.  I was blown away by his performance as Holly when I saw Buddy’s original run nearly 14 years ago, but what Billy does with the character now nearly defies belief.  He has every tic and nuance of Holly down to a science:  voice, posture, mannerisms, singing style, you name it.  But he still imbues the performance with an energy that is distinctly his own which makes the character of Holly and the music he plays just that much better.

And let’s understand something.  McGuigan is one polished musician.  His execution of Holly’s songs was deadly accurate and he ran through the classics such as True Love Ways, Rave On, Oh, Boy, and That’ll Be the Day.  But, with ease, he also sailed through many obscure Holly numbers such as Lonesome Tears, Modern Don Juan, and Handsome Brown-Eyed Man.  And he does it all with a lively and infectious energy as he bantered with the audience and got everybody clapping and singing along.

A front man is only as strong as his backup band and the Raybandits brought it all and more with a night of surefire musicianship and their own shining moments.

The flawless rhythm of Rich Miller’s drumming will have you thinking he is the second coming of Ringo Starr.  Miller especially amazes with a solo number where he turns a simple cardboard box into a masterful piece of percussion work.  Jay Hanson’s lead guitar sizzled all night long.  Tara Vaughan’s fingers danced along the piano keys and her sultry alto kept the audience rapt during a performance of Willie Nelson’s Crazy.  The acoustic guitar and bass work of Ryan and Matthew McGuigan were second to none.  Ryan McGuigan awed the audience as his John Lennonesque voice soared in Ritchie Valens’ La Bamba and Matthew McGuigan revved up the crowd with Chuck Berry’s Johnny B Goode.

The title of this review may be a little more prophetic than you think.  Pictures of Billy McGuigan’s history as Buddy Holly were set all over the theatre and one telling photo was listed simply as “The End 16/17”, suggesting that Billy may be retiring the role of Buddy Holly once and for all.  If this be the case, I urge you in the strongest possible terms to get a ticket to catch the greatest interpreter of Buddy Holly before it’s too late.  As the opening night performance was nearly sold out, odds are high that this run is going to run out of tickets mighty quick.  Do not delay and prepare yourself for a night of colossal fun.

Rave On:  The Buddy Holly Experience plays at the Omaha Playhouse through June 26.  Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets cost $40 and can be obtained through the Playhouse’s web site at www.omahaplayhouse.com or call the Box Office at 402-553-0800.  The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

Billy McGuigan Returns to the Playhouse as Buddy Holly

Since 2002, Billy McGuigan has taken his interpretation of Buddy Holly from coast to coast achieving critical acclaim and setting box office records around the nation.  Now Billy returns to where it all began when he and his Rave On band bring Rave On:  The Buddy Holly Experience back to the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Prepare yourself for a high energy character concert as Billy McGuigan entertains you as the legendary lead man for the Crickets with hits such as That’ll Be the Day, Not Fade Away, True Love Ways, Peggy Sue, and more!!  Billy’s Buddy will also pay tribute to his fellow luminaries:  Ritchie Valens, Big Bopper, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, and Chuck Berry.

Rave On:  The Buddy Holly Experience runs at the Omaha Playhouse from June 10-26.  Showtimes are Wed-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2pm.  Tickets cost $40.  For tickets contact the box office at 402-553-0800 or visit the website at http://www.omahaplyahouse.com.  The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.