The Long Islander Review

Audiences ‘Rave On’ For Engeman’s Buddy Holly

January 25, 2019
By Janee Law

It’s no surprise that the John W. Engeman Theater’s production of “Buddy–The Buddy Holly Story” received a standing ovation from the audience during its Jan. 19 showing, as cast members kept the crowd moving and singing to the songs from start to finish.

Audience member Teresa Oliver, of Huntington, said this is a production that can’t be missed.
“Everything was excellent,” she said. “It got everybody moving, everybody dancing, and everybody was getting involved. I loved it”

The audience journeys back to 1957 to witness the true story of American musician Buddy Holly (Michael Perrie Jr.) and his historical raise to fame until his tragic death less than two years later. Instead of leaving the crowd with the sadness over the singer’s sudden death, the production focuses on pulling the audience in to celebrate his life and musical brilliance. Throughout the production, the ensemble also brings the crowd to act as a live audience for Buddy’s concerts and performances.

Audience member Frank Carino Jr., of Huntington, said the cast’s interaction with the crowd was awesome and everyone from his group “lost their voices during the show.”

“It was definitely an entertaining evening for all age groups,” Carino said. “It was honestly better than some of the Broadway shows I’ve seen, hands down.”

Engeman’s production is directed and choreographed by Keith Andrews, with musical direction by Angela C. Howell. The ensemble had the audience grooving and rocking to more than 20 of Buddy Holly’s greatest hits, including “That’ll Be The Day,” “Peggy Sue,” “Everyday,” “Oh Boy,” “Not Fade Away,” “Rave On” and “Raining In My Heart.”

In act one, Buddy Holly & the Crickets’ performance of “Oh Boy” will have the crowd saying “oh boy” as cast members energetically strum the chords and use their instruments as a bass—no pun intended—for entertaining stunts.

During the productions electrifying finale, which features Buddy’s “Johnny B. Goode,” Ritchie Valens’ (Diego Guevara) “La Bamba” and The Big Bopper’s (Jayson Elliot) “Chantilly Lace,” the energy from the audience was in full force, singing, clapping and dancing to each number.

Leading the stamina on stage is Michael Perrie Jr., who portrays the corky and ambitious Buddy Holly. Perrie brilliantly embodies Buddy’s musical talents and unwavering drive to follow his dream.

After Saturday’s show, Perrie said having the opportunity to play Buddy has always been a dream for him.

“I love playing Buddy Holly because he was a genius and he was a great inspiration for me,” Perrie said. “This was the first show I ever saw as a kid that got me into theater and so it’s very full circle for me to come back and do it.”

He added that every show brings a new discovery in his role as Buddy. “This production and this cast are phenomenal. They make me feel like there’s a new Buddy in there that I’m finding every time. It’s a wonderful experience.”

Other leading cast members include Sam Sherwood as Joe Maudlin, Armando Gutierrez as Jerry Allison and Eric Scott Anthony as Norman Petty.

Broadway World Review

BWW Review: BUDDY – THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY at the Engeman

January 24, 2019
By Melissa Giordano

Northport’s exquisite John W. Engeman Theatre does it again with a boffo incarnation of Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story. Running through March 3rd at the Long Island venue, the musical is strongly directed by Keith Andrews and boasts an absolutely stellar cast many of whom have been in previous productions of this show. While we know Buddy (along with a few of his friends) died young and tragically in a plane crash, Alan Janes has certainly created a joyous celebration of Buddy’s life.

The award-winning show has had a very extensive life originating in the West End in 1989 running there until 2008. It was on Broadway from 1990 to 1991 and has toured and been done locally, regionally, and worldwide ever since. In the Engeman’s production, Michael Perrie, Jr. excellently stars as the rock and roll pioneer. You will find he is a natural in the role as he belts out some of Buddy’s biggest hits including “Peggy Sue”, “That’ll Be The Day”, and “Maybe Baby” among many others.

The show is well thought out having the first act (and a little of the second act) set over several years telling the story about how Buddy started with his band, The Crickets, and the pressures of the music industry as he and the band wanted to move from country to rock-and-roll. It also shows him meeting his wife, Maria Elena portrayed adorably by Lauren Cosio, and the band recording. Then most of the second act shows their final performance at Surf Ballroom in Iowa. It is truly one big party as we also see performances by The Big Bopper, portrayed by the delightfully charismatic Jayson Elliot, and Ritchie Valens, portrayed charmingly by Diego Guevara.

The whole company is truly brilliant as is the clever creative team. Jordan Janota’s set is smartly stationary with some rolling pieces that make for flawless scene changes. This is enhanced beautifully by Doug Harry‘s atmospheric lighting and Dustin Cross‘ great costume choices as we are in the late 1950s. It is also thrilling to see that the enthusiastic audience was also into the participation aspect.

And so, Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story, is indeed another hit for the Engeman. I am certain that, even if you are not overly familiar with Buddy Holly‘s music, you will have a wonderful time. And his fans I am sure are elated this production honors him so beautifully. Being an old soul myself, I think it is safe to say you will be happy to have seen this must-see production this season.

Times of Huntington-Northport Review

‘Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story’ hits all the right notes at the Engeman

January 23, 2019
By Heidi Sutton

February 3rd of this year will mark the 60th anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly, one of rock ‘n’ roll’s true pioneers who, in his short career, had a major influence on the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Elton John.

Holly’s wonderful music, his lasting legacy to the world, is celebrated in Alan Janes’ “Buddy —The Buddy Holly Story.” The jukebox musical debuted in London in 1989 and arrived a year later on Broadway. The show opened at the John W. Engeman Theater last week and runs through March 3.

Directed and choreographed by Keith Andrews, the show recounts the last three years of Holly’s life and rise to fame, from 1956 to 1959.

We first meet him as a strong-willed 19-year-old country singer (played by Michael Perrie Jr.) from Lubbock, Texas, and follow his journey with his band, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, as they venture into rock ‘n’ roll with hits like “That’ll Be the Day,” “Rock Around with Ollie Vee” and “Everyday.”

The impressive sets by Jordan Janota and props by Emily Wright beautifully evolve with each scene while the stage features a permanent arch of gramophone records that light up individually as each hit is performed.

Touring the country in 1957, Holly and his band head to the Apollo Theater in Harlem where the audience is treated to a show-stopping rendition of the Isley Brothers’s “Shout” by Apollo performers Marlena (Kim Onah) and Tyrone (Troy Valjean Rucker) before enjoying “Peggy Sue,” “Oh, Boy!” and “Not Fade Away.”

We are witness to when Holly meets his future wife Maria Elena Santiago (Lauren Cosio) for the first time and when he leaves a pregnant Maria in 1959 to go on the Winter Dance Party tour by bus to play 24 Midwestern cities in as many days after promising her he won’t get on an airplane.

The final scene is also one of the show’s finest as Holly’s last performance at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, with J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson (Jayson Elliott) and Ritchie Valens (Diego Guevara) is recreated in a poignant tribute. The audience is transported back in time and become concertgoers enjoyingoutstanding performances of “Chantilly Lace,” “La Bamba” and “Peggy Sue Got Married.”

The stage suddenly goes dark and a radio announces that all three singers were killed in a plane crash shortly after the concert. Richardson was 28, Holly was 22 and Valens was only 17. The tragedy was later referred to as “The Day the Music Died.” The lights come back on and the concert continues, bringing the packed house at last Friday’s show to their feet in a long-standing ovation.

By the end of the night, more than 20 of Holly’s greatest hits have been played live by the incredibly talented actors on stage, a fitting tribute to the Texan who got to play music his way.

Newsday Review

‘The Buddy Holly Story’ review: A ’50s legend brought back to life

January 23, 2019
By Barbara Schuler

It’s a blast from the past. “Buddy — The Buddy Holly Story” at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport is a rollicking celebration of the iconic singer, who consistently fought the system to make music his way.

The show, one of the earliest jukebox musicals, is mostly a late-’50s hit parade with the concert interrupted every so often to detail Holly’s meteoric rise and tragic end. Watching Michael Perrie Jr. in the title role is as close as many of us will ever come to seeing the legend live, no surprise since he’s been performing the show off and on since 2016. Rarely offstage, Perrie is perpetual motion from the moment he launches into the early hit “That’ll Be the Day.”

Director-choreographer Keith Andrews has assembled quite the backup bunch, starting with the other two members of Holly’s band — drummer Jerry Allison (Armando Gutierrez) and Joe Maudlin (Sam Sherwood), the bass player whose aerobic routine on the massive instrument brings down the house. (Note the actors in this show are the band, with pretty much everyone playing something.)

Other notable performances include Jayson Elliott as J.P. Richardson Jr., known as the Big Bopper, Diego Guevara as the hip-shaking Richie Valens and Eric Scott Anthony as Norman Petty, the producer whose tough love helped Holly reach the top. Costumer Dustin Cross does everyone up in ’50s finery — lots of crinolines and cardigans — and Jordan Janoda’s colorful set evokes the era.

The biographical part of the show highlights major Holly moments, starting in a Lubbock, Texas, roller rink (a little odd, though, that the band members outnumbered the skaters), on to a not-so-successful stint at the Nashville studios of Decca, then New York, where a booking at the Apollo caused quite the ruckus because the audience expected Holly to be black.

The show ends with a replication of the Feb. 3, 1959, concert at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, with Holly performing along with the Big Bopper, who gets the audience going with “Chantilly Lace,” and Valens, upping the decibels with “La Bamba”  (yes, you get to sing along). A string of Holly hits goes dark mid-“Rave On,” as a somber radio voice announces all three men were killed in the crash of their chartered plane. It could have been quite the buzzkill, but the interlude was brief and respectful, then the rock and roll resumed full volume, ending with the classic “Oh, Boy!” Most everyone leaves singing, but you can’t help wonder what might have been had Holly listened to his wife and never gotten on that plane.

The Theatre Guide Review

Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story – John W. Engeman Theater

January 21, 2019
By Jessica Kennedy

Buddy- The Buddy Holly Story premiered as the mainstage performance at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport this past weekend to packed houses! These enthusiastic theater goers were ready to celebrate the life and work of an artist who was taken from us way too soon.  Masterfully directed and choreographed by Keith Andrews, and developed beautifully by Music Director Angela C. Howell, this show promises big names, big songs, and a big night of entertainment- and it delivers!

This story, presented through special arrangement with Buddy Worldwide Ltd., showcases the whirlwind musical career of Buddy Holly from January 1956 to February 1959.  We meet Buddy (played inspiringly by Michael Perrie Jr.), as he and the Crickets (played by the effortlessly talented Sam Sherwood and Armando Gutierrez), try to stir up the music scene with a bait and switch rock and roll performance on live radio.  Although many seem skeptical, local DJ Hipockets Duncan (the endearing and paternal Rik Walter) takes a chance and helps the struggling group land a recording contract with Decca Records. It is short-lived, however, as Buddy simply refuses to acquiesce to please his bosses at the price of his unique sound.  An introduction to Norman Petty and his wife Vi- played by the stern but endearing Eric Scott Anthony, and the comedic and affable Franca Vercelloni- is all it takes to skyrocket the Crickets into stardom. There’s trouble in paradise, however, as the Crickets part ways, and Buddy strikes out on his own, forming bonds with other unique artists, such as The Big Bopper (the charismatic and enthusiastic Jayson Elliott) and Ritchie Valens (the vibrant and gifted Diego Guevara).  The play acknowledges the tragic loss of these aforementioned stars, but chooses to focus more on the beauty and memory they left behind- ending in a spellbinding explosion of music and flair!

This show is indeed a celebration of a man who left his mark on the music industry, as well as in the hearts and minds of those who hear his voice.  Although Buddy Holly’s career only lasted a short while, he left the world with masterpieces of expression which truly transcend time. Not only do audience members have the pleasure of hearing Holly’s songs come alive on stage, but we are privy to the more intimate moments of his young life- the adaptation of his song “Cindy Lou” to “Peggy Sue” in order to rekindle a relationship between drummer Jerry Allison and his future wife after a brief breakup; or the fairy tale moment when Buddy sidles up to a beautiful young receptionist, Maria Elena (the captivating Lauren Cosio), and professes “I’m going to marry you”- and does!

This show is full of light, love, excitement, and celebration!  Act II itself becomes a concert in its final scene, and audience members rise to their feet for a standing ovation after truly astounding musical performances of “Shout,” “Chantilly Lace,” “La Bamba,” and “Johnny B. Goode,” only to have the show go on with a reprise of “Oh Boy” as we are on our feet- cementing that concert feel and offering a final moment to enjoy the celebration that this play is offering.  This show is all you hope it will be- and much more! The songs and lifelike performances will leave your head swimming and your heart full. Full of respect for a dynamo who left his mark on us all with a treasure trove of music which will continue to entertain and inspire for generations to come!

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