The Candy Man Can

From L to R: Bodie Kuzminski, Lennon McGuigan, Jay Hanson, Brinlee Roeder, Lily Sanow, Pieper Roeder star in ‘Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka’

Reclusive confectioner, Willy Wonka, holds a contest to find an heir to his chocolate factory.  Through the discovery of golden tickets hidden in Wonka candies, five children arrive at the factory for a fantastical tour and a series of morality tests to determine who is worthy to succeed the legendary candymaker.  This is Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka and is currently playing at Scottish Rite Masonic Center under the auspices of Rave On Productions.

I’m glad to see Rave On experimenting with their content.  After a series of highly successful maturely themed rock musicals, Rave On does a 180 with a family show highlighting the students of the McGuigan Arts Academy.

Now this is a youth version of Willy Wonka so it runs a bit shorter than the traditional version as well as making a few changes to the story.  For example, in the youth version, only the children take the tour of Wonka’s factory.  The adults are left out.  In either case, Leslie Bricusse and Timothy Allen McDonald’s adaptation of the tale blends Dahl’s novel with the famed 1971 film.  It’s a faithful retelling, though I wish the writers had gone with the film’s climax which, surprisingly, is superior to the novel’s climax.  Bricusse and Anthony Newley also have written a series of fun songs, some original and some lifted directly from the film.

Kimberly Faith Hickman really provides a fine piece of direction and I especially applaud her work with the children.  Their work ranged from promising to excellent with some providing performances that were as good or better than work I’ve seen performed by some adults.  Hickman generates a real sense of whimsy and fun and tosses in a bit of theatre magic along the way with a brisk pacing that just makes the show fly.

Outside of the title character, the adults take a back seat in this production though Brandon Fisher does get to shine with an eccentric Grandpa Joe who fills Charlie’s head with tales of Wonka’s factory and acts as a bulwark to Charlie’s disappointments with “Cheer Up, Charlie”.

But this show is ultimately about the kids and the featured characters admirably carried the weight of the show.  Lennon McGuigan is clearly having a ball, not to mention being round as one, as Augustus Gloop and adds just the right level of theatricality with his number, “I Eat More”.  Pieper Roeder is snidely competitive as Violet Beauregarde who is drawn to gum like a moth to a flame.  Bodie Kuzminski is not only obnoxiously disrespectful as Mike Teavee, but adult actors can take lessons in projection and articulation from him. Lily Sanow has a bright future in theatre ahead of her as evidenced with her turn as Veruca Salt.  Sanow was perfect as the snotty, spoiled rich girl who demands catering to her every whim.  Sanow also has a pretty and powerful voice as she belts out Veruca’s personal anthem, “I Want it Now”.

Brinlee Roeder is very effective as Charlie Bucket.  Roeder brings a real sincerity and decency to the good-hearted Charlie who constantly encourages the family to “Be Positive” even in the most dire of circumstances.  Roeder also has a nice singing voice, shining in “Flying” and reducing the audience to tears of laughter in “Burping Song”. 

For a guy only acting for the second time in his life, Jay Hanson has some potent instincts for storytelling.  Hanson beautifully underplays the role of Willy Wonka, giving him a quiet impishness and a natural sardonic nature useful for bantering with the naughty brats in his tour group.  I was especially impressed with Hanson’s turn as an unnamed candy seller (implied to be an incognito Wonka) who seems to have a bit of magic about him as he helps Charlie obtain the final golden ticket.

Hanson’s singing is in its usual fine form with stellar turns in “Pure Imagination” and a creepy performance of “There’s No Knowing”.

Matthew McGuigan’s musical direction is in rare form.  No pun intended, but he doesn’t kid around with the music.  He keeps it light and fun, but the tunes also have underpinnings of rock with a smidgen of jazz that just gave it a unique and pleasing flavor.  Carly Frolio’s costumes are right on the mark, suiting the personalities of the characters and hearkening back to the film’s depiction of said characters.  I especially liked Wonka’s outlandish outfit of green pants with purple coat, vest, and brown hat and her Oompa Loompa outfits which conjured images of 90s hip hop performers with colorful stocking hats, black shirts, suspenders, and long colored striped socks.  Kate Whitecotton well utilizes the backdrops at Scottish Rite to take us from the poor home of the Buckets to the magnificent innards of Wonka’s factory.  Kyle Toth’s lights help to support the show with his LSD inspired colors for the “There’s No Knowing” number being particularly effective.  His technical skills were also quite impressive especially with the transformation of Violet into a giant blueberry.

There were some technical squoinks as the microphones would go from being so sensitive that I could hear normal breathing to going so soft that I’d lose singing to the instruments, but the cast didn’t let these slight bobbles have an impact on their performances.

If you’re a fan of the film and/or novel, you’re likely going to be a fan of this show as well.  The children put on a fine production with a little help from the adults and you’re going to have a scrumdiddelyumptious time.

Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka plays at the Scottish Rite Masonic Center through July 31.  Showtimes are Fri-Sat at 7:30pm and Sunday at 2pm.  Tickets cost $35 and can be purchased at https://www.theomahaseries.com/willywonka.  Scottish Rite Masonic Center is located at 202 S 20th St in Omaha, NE.

Photo Credit: Rave On Productions

Rave On Productions is Seeking Some Candymen (Candyladies, and Candy Boys & Girls)

Rave On Productions Announces Auditions for:

Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka

We invite interested teen and adult actors (ages 13+) to submit video auditions for the upcoming family production of Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka being performed at the Scottish Rite Theater in Omaha, NE. This is a paid performance opportunity.

Auditions are by video submissions only. Actors should prepare and sing 16 bars of a family friendly song.

Rehearsals will be held June 26 – July 21. Weekend rehearsals will be during the day and weekday rehearsals will be held during evenings. There will not be rehearsals scheduled July 1 – 4 due to the July 4th holiday. Rehearsals will be held at the Rave On Productions/McGuigan Arts Academy Studio in Countryside Village in Omaha, NE.

Performance dates and times:
July 22 at 7:30pm
July 23 at 7:30pm
July 24 at 2:00pm
July 29 at 7:30pm
July 30 at 7:30pm
July 31 at 2:00pm

Please send video auditions along with a headshot and resume to info@billymcguigan.com. Please note that actors aged 18 or older are required to pass a background check prior to being cast. Parents and guardians are not permitted in rehearsals or backstage during the show.

Video audition submissions will be accepted through Friday May 13, 2022.

Rave On Productions Announces Sophomore Season of ‘The Omaha Series’

Omaha, NE–After a critically acclaimed debut season that blew in with the ferocity of a hurricane and netted a jaw dropping 9 nominations at the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards, Rave On Productions has announced its second season of The Omaha Series and its guaranteed to have something for everybody.

The brain child of Rave On’s owner, Billy McGuigan, and Rave On’s Artistic and Education Director, Kimberly Faith Hickman, the Omaha Series presents musical productions in traditional and non-traditional venues throughout the Omaha metro area.

The Omaha Series 2022 Season

Rock of Ages
April 7-16
Venue: The Waiting Room (6212 Maple Street)

Rock Of Ages is a five-time Tony Award-nominated musical telling the story of a small-town girl, a city boy and a rock ‘n’ roll romance on the Sunset Strip. When the bar where rock reigns supreme is set to be demolished, it’s up to a group of rockers and their band of friends to save the day…and the music! Can Drew, Sherri and the gang save the strip before it’s too late? Only the 80s best rock anthems and power ballads hold the answer!

Rock Of Ages’ electric score features smash, hair band hits like Bon Jovi’s WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE, Poison’s EVERY ROSE HAS ITS THORN, Foreigner’s I WANNA KNOW WHAT LOVE IS, Whitesnake’s HERE I GO AGAIN, Journey’s DON’T STOP BELIEVIN’ and so many more! So grab your aqua net and get ready to rock and roll all night at The Waiting Room!

Don’t Stop Me Now
June 9-11
Venue: SumTur Amphitheater (11691 S 108th St in Papillion, NE)

Tonight I’m gonna have myself a real good time. I feel ali–i –i-iiiive celebrating the most popular and acclaimed rock musicals of all time! Don’t Stop Me Now delivers an energetic concert featuring favorites from musicals like Jesus Christ Superstar, Jersey Boys, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Rock of Ages, Dreamgirls, Hair, Rent and more! Everybody cut loose – Footloose – kick off your Sunday shoes and be swept up in a rock musical journey through time. All the strange rock and rollers, you’re know you’re doing all right at Don’t Stop Me Now!

Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka
July 22-31
Venue: The Scottish Rite (202 S 20th St)

Roald Dahl’s timeless story of the world-famous candy man and his quest to find an heir comes to life on the Scottish Rite stage July 22 – 31. Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka features a cast of young performers as they take the audience on a fantasy ride into the land of pure imagination! Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka includes classic songs like “Pure Imagination”, “The Candy Man”, “(I’ve Got a) Golden Ticket”, “Oompa-Loompa-Doompadee-Doo”, “I Want It Now” and more! This family-friendly scrumdidilyumptious musical is guaranteed to delight everyone’s sweet tooth!

Billy McGuigan’s Pop Rock Orchestra
August 18-20
Venue: SumTur Amphitheater (11691 S 108th St in Papillion, NE)

Like many of us out there, the feeling Billy got from watching big rock bands from the 70s was exhilarating and it’s an energy that is re-created with Billy McGuigan’s Pop Rock Orchestra. His musical influences left an incredible impact on the type of entertainer Billy was to become. Think of 1970’s Jumpsuit Elvis, the Moody Blues who put symphonic interludes in the middle of a rock song, ELO with an electric horn and string section – rock & roll was transformed! As Billy navigates the audience through decades of classic gems, he does so backed by a rock orchestra that can match his energy in force. The set list is as varied and versatile as Billy himself.

The Rocky Horror Show
Oct 21-29
Venue: The Slowdown (729 N 14th St)

One fateful night, Brad and Janet – a wholesome, well-behaved, utterly normal young couple in love – innocently set out to visit an old professor. A thunderstorm and a flat-tire force them to seek help at the castle of Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter, an alien, transvestite scientist with a manic genius and insatiable libido played by glam rocker, Benn Sieff. Brad, Janet and Frank ‘N’ Furter’s cohorts are swept up into the scientist’s latest experiment. A loving homage to the class B sci-fi film and horror genres with an irresistible rock ‘n’ roll score is a hilarious, wild ride that no audience will soon forget.

Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience
Nov 25-Dec 30
Venue: The Slowdown (729 N 14th St)

Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience is the nation’s most innovative and unique show utilizing the works of The Beatles. This amazing band, anchored by brothers Billy, Matthew and Ryan McGuigan perform as themselves and leave the song choices completely in the hands of the audience. This is done through request cards that audience members fill out prior to the show. On those cards, the audience member only needs to fill out three things: their name, their favorite Beatles song and the reason why they chose that song. The cards are collected and two minutes before the show begins, a set list is created based upon the songs chosen by that particular audience. As an added treat, the reasons that the audience members chose those songs make up the narrative of the evening. Every show is different, every show is interactive, and every show Yesterday and Today: The Interactive Beatles Experience proves that The Beatles’ music truly is the soundtrack to our lives.

Hot Patootie, Bless My Soul! You’ll Really Love ‘The Rocky Horror Show’

Newly engaged Brad and Janet are in for quite a night when they stumble upon the home of Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter, a mad scientist with a yen for cross dressing and sexual deviancy.  It’s The Rocky Horror Show and its running at The Slowdown under the auspices of Rave On Productions.

Rave On Productions ends its freshman season of theatrical productions with a show that I currently consider to be the best of the season.  Richard O’Brien’s cult rock musical requires a very special group of performers who have to be completely dedicated to the over the top, raunchy ode to cheesy, schlocky sci-fi and be able to belt out a tune.  This show has that and far, far more.

It brings back some of the cast and crew from the award-winning Omaha Playhouse production of 2019, but blows that run right out of the water (a highly difficult task) with a nuclear powered version done the way it was meant to be with full audience participation with prop bags and a screen to help prompt newbies when to utilize said props and provide the dialogue to answer the performers.

Kaitlyn McClincy returns to direct the production, but has teamed up with Kimberly Faith Hickman and their teamwork creates something truly formidable.  Their staging utilizes the entire space of The Slowdown.  Their coaching pulls some truly phenomenal performances out of their thespians and the background bits they have the actors doing when they’re not the focus of the scene really fleshes out the tale and makes one forget they were working without a set.

Every single actor should be proud of the work they did in this show as there isn’t a flat tire among them.  Props to Eric Perlstein and Britney Thompson for quite literally being the props and set of the show.  Evelyn Hill slays as the snarky Narrator of the story.  Ryan McGuigan absolutely kills it in a cameo as Dr. Scott with that amazing tenor rocking out in “Eddie’s Teddy”.  Billy McGuigan is spot on as Frank ‘N’ Furter’s new playmate, Rocky, whose own dazzling tenor mesmerized the audience with “The Sword of Damocles”.  Erika Hall-Sieff and Kevin Buswell bring real creepiness and an understated malevolence to their roles as Magenta and Riff Raff plus we got to enjoy Hall-Sieff’s rich alto serenade us with “Science Fiction/Double Feature” plus a long coda in “Planet Schmanet Janet” while Buswell’s high tenor brought the audience to their feet to do the “Time Warp” again.  Courtney Cairncross’ energy is unmeasurable with her take on Columbia and truly shines after she gets her brain zapped with a prolonged series of gyrations and snorts.

Benn Sieff returns to his Fonda-McGuire winning role of Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter and seems to be enjoying himself even more if that was even possible.  His complete dedication to the role makes for a gripping watch and his mammoth presence (physical and energy wise) make certain all eyes are glued to him.  You could feel him feeding off the crowd and fueling his fantastic performance and his ballistic baritone thrilled the audience with “Sweet Transvestite” and “Charles Atlas Song/I Can Make You a Man”.  And he actually almost brought me to tears with his sense of defeat and sadness in “I’m Going Home”.

Jesse White turns in another spectacular performance with his turn as Brad Majors.  White is truly nerdy and a genuine prick (trust me, watch his behavior and attitude towards Janet).  He also has an incredible sense of improv as he was able to work in some musical responses to audience commentary.  But his almost sonic vocals sold me on his work as he belted out “Dammit Janet” and actually made me feel a little sorry for him with his hangdog melancholy in “Once in a While”.

Nina Washington is repression personified with her take on Janet Weiss.  Ostensibly, she starts off as the stereotypical damsel in distress, but she blossoms in an awful hurry after she gets deflowered and develops an instant addiction to sex as she pursues Rocky like a shark in “Toucha Toucha Toucha, Touch Me” and has real wonderment in her alto as she ponders her strange adventures in “Super Heroes”.

Amanda Fehlner’s costumes were absolutely superb especially with the fishnets and lingerie for Frank ‘N’ Furter and others, Magenta’s maid’s outfit, the ill-fitting tuxedo of Riff Raff, and Rocky’s golden shorty shorts.  Kimberly Faith Hickman’s choreography was so much fun especially with “Time Warp” and a rather exuberant dance from Magenta to close out “Planet Schmanet Janet”.  Charlie Ames’ lighting always suited the feel of the scenes with depressing blues of more melancholic numbers and a fiery red for more charged scenes.  Matthew McGuigan does superlative work with his musical direction as he seemed to take influences from different versions of the show and infused it with something from his own soul and he and his band (Ryan McGuigan, Max Meyer, Stan Harper, Jay Hanson, Darren Pettit, and Larell Ware) knocked this score clear out of the ballpark.

You still have three chances to catch this show and I advise you to take advantage while you have the chance for this show is selling out fast.  It’s a megaton of fun.

The Rocky Horror Show runs as the Slowdown through October 31.  Remaining shows are midnight on Oct 30 and 31 and a 7:30pm show on Oct 31.  Tickets start at $30 and can be purchased at https://www.theomahaseries.com/rockyhorror.  Due to mature themes and content, this show is not suitable for children.  The Slowdown is located at 729 N 14th St in Omaha, NE.

Photo created by Carly Frolio

Rave On Productions Set to Provide Halloween Fix with ‘The Rocky Horror Show’

Omaha, NE: Just in time for Halloween, Rave On Productions continues its spectacular Omaha Series with Richard O’Brien’s legendary ode to schlocky sci-fi, The Rocky Horror Show.

This musical tells the story of newly engaged Janet and Brad whose car breaks down in the middle of who knows where. Seeking help, they find the home of Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter, a delightfully deranged transvestite scientist who has created a new playmate for himself in the form of Rocky. What follows is a wildly raucous night of comedy, double entrendres, and hijinks.

Now you can enjoy The Rocky Horror Show in all of its audience participating glory when it runs at The Slowdown (729 N 14th St in Omaha, NE) for six performances Oct 29-31.

Rave On’s show brings back some of the award winning cast and crew from the 2019 production mounted at the Omaha Community Playhouse including director Kaitlyn McClincy, Erika Hall-Sieff, Kevin Buswell, and Benn Sieff who reprises his Fonda-McGuire award winning role of Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter.

Joining them is a cast of some of Omaha’s finest theatrical talent and singers and they can’t wait for you to join in the fun.

Tickets begin at $30 and can be purchased by visiting https://www.theomahaseries.com/rockyhorror. For an additional $10, you’ll be able to purchase a prop bag at the door (no personal props, please) to immerse yourself in this show the way it was meant to be (VIP Balcony tickets will receive a free prop package).

Ready yourselves for a haunting good time and throw yourself into the experience of The Rocky Horror Show.

*Parental discretion highly advised due to mature themes and adult content.

Directed By: Kaitlyn McClincy and Kimberly Faith Hickman
Musical Direction By: Matthew McGuigan

Cast

Benn Sieff as Dr. Frank ‘N’ Furter
Jesse White as Brad Majors
Nina Washington as Janet Weiss
Kevin Buswell as Riff Raff
Erika Hall-Sieff as Magenta
Courtney Cairncross as Columbia
Evelyn Hill as Narrator
Billy McGuigan as Rocky
Ryan McGuigan as Dr. Scott
Eric Perlstein as Eddie
Brittney Thompson as Transylvanian

The Band

Matthew McGuigan, Stan Harper, Jay Hanson, Max Meyer, Darren Pettit, and Larell Ware

She Pre-Rocks

May be an image of 1 person, playing a musical instrument, standing and outdoors

On an absolutely perfect night at the Davies Amphitheater in Glenwood, IA, the one and only Tara Vaughan delighted the crowd with a spectacular night of song and storytelling dedicated to the women of rock and roll and produced under the auspices of Rave On Productions.

Though it didn’t explicitly have the title, this was a variation of Tara’s She Rocks show (coming soon to the SumTur Amphitheater in Papillion, NE).  Not only is it a revue of some of the classic songs from female rockers, it also serves as a testament to Vaughan’s awesome versatility.  Vaughan covers a slew of songs from a variety of performers ranging from Petula Clark to Amy Winehouse and whacked them all out of the park.

Outside of her insane talent as a singer and keyboardist, what I like best about Tara Vaughan is just her genuineness.  I agree with her manager, who calls her endearing.  She has a sweet, very shy, storytelling style as she talks about growing up, how she sing-narrates her life, and the stories of her friendships that just melt one’s heart like butter. 

But, ultimately, it’s all about the music and Vaughan delivers that and then some with her octane powered alto.  Highlights of Vaughan’s performance included her take on one of my all time favorite songs, Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain”; a ripping cover of Linda Ronstadt’s cover of “When Will I Be Loved”; an energetic version of Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie”; a spot on performance of Fleetwood Mac’s “Say You Love Me”; not to mention a fine performance of her original song “Blame it On My Youth”.

Vaughan is strongly supported by her amazing band which featured Adam Stoltenberg providing the backbeat on drums and Max Meyer heating up the night with sizzling lead guitar solos.  Ejanae Hume not only shines as a backup vocalist, but she also gets her own moments in the spotlight with a take on Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” which made me want to get up and dance with somebody and a splendid cover of The Supremes’ “Keep Me Hangin’ On”.  The Given McGuigans (and I stole that description from Vaughan), Ryan and Matthew, not only serve as Vaughan’s partners in comedic crime, but also soar with Ryan’s acoustic guitar and percussion work and Matthew’s bass playing.  Matthew McGuigan and Tara also have a very sweet duet with Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend” which seems to serve as an ode to their own friendship.

If you missed this show, well, too bad for you.  Thanks for reading my review.

Of course, I jest.  If you missed this show, you’ve got another chance to see this divine diva of the ivories when She Rocks plays at SumTur Amphitheater in Papillion, NE from Sept 9-19.  Tickets are $20 for lawn seating and $35 for stadium seating and can be purchased at https://www.theomahaseries.com/sherocks.  Showtimes are Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm and Sundays at 7pm.

If you’re ready for a bevy of hits from a mighty mistress of music, then you’re ready for Tara Vaughan.  She will rock your socks off.

May be an image of one or more people, people standing, people playing musical instruments and outdoors

Orchestral Enclave

May be an image of 4 people, including Billy McGuigan, people playing musical instruments, people standing, guitar and indoor

If you like your classic rock done classically, then this is the show for you.  It’s Billy McGuigan’s Pop Rock Orchestra currently running at SumTur Amphitheater under the auspices of Rave On Productions.

It was a beautiful night for an outdoor show and I was grateful for the cooler temperatures because Billy McGuigan and his orchestra truly heated up the night.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Pop Rock Orchestra show, Billy McGuigan and his musicians take you on a tour of music from the 50s to the 80s, but turn the traditional rock concert on its head by merging it with a big band orchestra of horns and strings to complement the standard guitars, basses, and percussion.  The end result is a dancing in the aisle, hand clapping, foot stomping good time.

I sometimes think Billy could create a new show based entirely around his storytelling.  He’s a raconteur without peer and never seems to lack a clever witticism, an off the cuff joke, or a poignant anecdote suitable for the moment or number.  This, combined with his stellar musicianship, is what makes him one of today’s premier acts.  McGuigan seemed extra energized tonight and used that juice to fuel a non-stop barrage of hits that the audience lapped up with a spoon.

Some highlights of McGuigan’s performance were his killer rendition of Elton John’s “Saturday Night’s All Right for Fighting”, a blazing take on Sinatra’s (Nancy, that is) “These Boots Were Made for Walking”, a haunting cover of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” and a spot on version of Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World’.  McGuigan also featured numbers off his latest album, Together, including a version of “Little Metal Shed” rearranged by local sax legend, Darren Pettit, which tore the house down.

Aside from McGuigan’s powerful vocal chops, we were also treated to excellent featured performances from Matthew McGuigan who had a smooth and elegant interpretation of “My Girl” and Jay Hanson shone in one of my favorite numbers of the evening, George Harrison’s “I’ve Got My Mind Set on You”.  Steve Gomez’s musical direction always hit the mark and I thought the fingers of Omaha’s guitar guru, Max Meyer, would burst into flame with the speed and ferocity of some of his guitar solos.

A few instances of instruments overwhelming the voices of singers did little to stop the storm of this production and you’re going to have a beautiful weekend to take advantage of the final performances of this top flight production.  And I hope you will.

Billy McGuigan’s Pop Rock Orchestra runs at SumTur Amphitheater through August 15.  Remaining showtimes are Saturday at 7:30pm and Sunday at 7pm.  Tickets cost $35 for stadium seating and $20 for lawn seating and can be purchased at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/billy-mcguigans-pop-rock-orchestra-tickets-153047839207.  SumTur Amphitheatre is located at 11691 S 108th St in Papillion, NE.

Buddy Storms the Stage

Jesse White stars as Buddy Holly in “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story”

A teenager in Lubbock, TX completely changes the landscape of rock and roll with his unique sound.  This is the story of Buddy Holly.  It’s the show that’s part biopic and part rock musical.  It’s Buddy:  The Buddy Holly Story playing this weekend at several venues under the auspices of Rave On Productions.

It must be cosmic coincidence.  Back in 2002, this show was having its preview night at the Omaha Community Playhouse when inclement weather forced a halt to the show, though the audience members were entertained by Buddy in the Playhouse’s basement.  Nearly 19 years later, the first public performance is again halted by bad weather at the height of the climactic Winter Dance Party concert, but the weather was prophetic as the performers were putting on a storm of their own at SumTur Amphitheatre before the festivities had to be stopped.  And for those of you who were at tonight’s show, you’ll be able to watch the whole thing again tomorrow or Sunday by responding to the Eventbrite e-mail you’ll be receiving.

Billy McGuigan steps away from the role he originated to serve as producer, co-director, and co-musical director this time around.  In tandem with Kimberly Faith Hickman, he serves up a rocking good time with a show as their direction is spot on.  It delivers the fun and the music and hits a couple of Buddy’s serious moments well, especially during his early days when he was struggling to make rock and roll in an area dominated by country music.  McGuigan’s personal experience with the role of Buddy is especially noticeable as his lead performer had every jot and tittle of Holly’s mannerisms and personality down cold.

This show truly does rise and fall on the shoulders of its title character and Jesse White was assuredly the man for the job.  White does a marvelous job in the role of Holly with his flawless accent and he captured Holly’s one of a kind singing style right down to the little hiccup Holly liked to throw in and thrilled the audience with a slew of Holly hits such as “Oh Boy”, “Peggy Sue”, “Every Day”, and “That’ll Be the Day”.  White assuredly makes the role his own, making Holly a very polite and respectful young man who is determined to make his music his way and succeeds beyond his wildest dreams.  When I closed my eyes during “True Love Ways”, I forgot where White ended and Buddy began as his vocals were a perfect match right down to the slight vibrato in his voice.  White did some impressive guitar work and some truly dynamite improv as, in character, he directed audience members to spots of safety during the storm.

Some excellent supporting performances were supplied by Jonathan Berger whose rich baritone made him a superb narrator as Hipockets Duncan.  Ryan McGuigan swipes his scenes with his awesome comedic timing as Joe Maudlin.  Eric Perlstein is a delightful prick as a snotty Decca producer trying to bend Buddy to his will and revved up the audience with his turn as the Big Bopper when he performed “Chantilly Lace”.  And Billy McGuigan has a nice turn as the M.C. for the Winter Dance Party in Clear Lake.

The musical direction of Matthew & Billy McGuigan was right on the money with interpretations so accurate you’d swear you had gone back in time to the 1950s.  Bradley Pesarchick’s costumes took us back to another era and I especially enjoyed the dresses he made for the jingle and backup singers as they invoked memories of sock hops of yesteryear.  Craig Marsh’s sound engineering well balanced the voices and instruments.  Craig Lee’s artistry made me feel like I was really at the Surf Ballroom.

There were a few moments where some of the actors needed to be a bit bolder with their performances.  The interpretation was there, but they needed to just cut loose and go for the gusto.  That aside, this cast did have the audience eating out of the palms of their hands and dancing in their seats and is another home run for Rave On Productions’ freshman season of theatre.

Buddy:  The Buddy Holly Story runs through the end of the weekend.  On Saturday, it performs at Soaring Wings Vineyard in Springfield, NE at 7:30pm and closes Sunday at 7pm at Davies Amphitheatre in Glenwood, IA.  Tickets cost $35 and can be purchased at theomahaseries.com/buddyholly

The Music Lives Again with Rave On Productions’ ‘Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story’

Jesse White stars as Buddy Holly in ‘Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story’

Omaha, NE–Buddy! The Buddy Holly Story tells the true story of Buddy’s meteoric rise to fame, from the moment in 1957 when ‘That’ll Be The Day’ hit the airwaves until his tragic death less than two years later on “The Day the Music Died”.  The incredible legacy of the young man with glasses, whose musical career spanned an all-too-brief period during the golden days of rock & roll, continues to live on in Buddy.  Seen by over 22 million people around the world, Buddy will have you on your feet and “send you out of the theatre on an unstoppable high” (The Boston Globe).

Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story is the second show in Rave On Productions’ Omaha Series – a season of rock musicals presented in various venues around the Omaha Metro.  The Omaha Series debuted in February with Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Waiting Room.

Billy McGuigan, known for his portrayal of Buddy Holly in Omaha and across the United States is making his directing debut alongside Kimberly Faith Hickman.  “I remember watching Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story in London when I was in my late 20s and I was completely blown away.  It’s a feeling I’ll never forget,” says Billy McGuigan.  “It’s been a career goal of mine to produce and direct this show and I waited until I knew I could find the perfect person to take on the role of Buddy because it’s a role that’s very personal to me.  As soon as I met Jesse White in our drive-in production of Don’t Stop Me Now last summer, I knew that was my guy.  He was my Buddy.”  

And so Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story starring Jesse White as Buddy will perform a three-show amphitheater tour, July 30th at SumTur Amphitheater (Papillion, NE), July 31st at Soaring Wings Vineyard (Springfield, NE), and August 1st at Davies Amphitheater (Glenwood IA).  All tickets are $35 and are available at TheOmahaSeries.com

Prior to each performance My Boomer Radio will be on site with a live DJ, taking audience requests and audience members can participate in 1950’s dance lessons with Kimberly Faith Hickman and students from the McGuigan Arts Academy.

Photo provided by Rave On Productions