In honor of the 60th anniversary of ‘The Day the Music Died,’ BCP has brought back ‘Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story’ for the third time through March 3
By Samantha Bambino
Sixty years ago, one fateful plane crash changed the trajectory of the music industry forever.
It was Feb. 3, 1959, and acclaimed artists Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson were flying to Moorhead, Minnesota, the next stop on their “Winter Dance Party” tour. The trio had been journeying on buses for days, suffering from the flu and frostbite due to frigid temperatures. When the option to board a warmer, quicker flight was presented, it was a no-brainer.
Sadly, fate was not on their side. In the brutal winter conditions, the pilot lost control of the aircraft, which crashed into a cornfield in Clear Lake, Iowa. Not one person survived. As referred to in the 1971 song by Don McLean, it was “The Day the Music Died.”
At only 22, Holly was at the height of his career with hits like “That’ll Be the Day” and “Peggy Sue.” Seemingly nothing more than a skinny country boy from Texas with thick, black glasses (which would one day inspire Elton John’s signature look), Holly broke racial barriers, serving as the first white act to perform at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York. There was just something about his unique spin on rock and roll that attracted listeners from all walks of life.
To honor Holly’s legacy and bring his timeless music to new audiences, Bucks County Playhouse is presenting for the third time, Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, on stage in New Hope through Sunday, March 3.
From beginning to end, Buddy offers non-stop enjoyment, even for theater-goers who may not be as familiar with his music. At its heart, the show is a chronicalization of Holly’s fast-moving rise to fame, showcasing his early days in the country-music-heavy Lubbock, Texas, and the overnight success of Buddy Holly and The Crickets after working with producer Norman Petty in New Mexico.
Simultaneously, Buddy is a true rock and roll concert, with the entire cast playing their own instruments. Audiences are able to clap and sing along to Holly favorites like “Everyday” and “Oh Boy,” the high-energy Valens single “La Bamba” and Richardson’s “Chantilly Lace.”
Starring as Holly is Texas native Andy Christopher, whom The Times spoke with about his nine years embodying the artist on stage. For Christopher, embarking on a career as the second coming of Holly wasn’t always the dream — he was a premed student on a straight path to becoming a doctor.
But in the midst of late nights studying for exams, a passion for theater ran through Christopher’s veins, something his older brother instilled in him at a young age.
“We moved around a lot, and one of the things that went with us were original Broadway cast recordings,” he said. “A lot of afternoons were spent reenacting Les Miserables, dying on our couch, which doubled as a barricade.”
While completing his undergrad in 2010, at the recommendation of a professor, Christopher decided to dedicate an entire semester to studying the arts — it would make him stand out more during medical school interviews. In a serendipitous turn of events, directors from London’s West End Company came to Texas, seeking a local guy to play Holly and lead guitarist Tommy Allsup in a Buddy-inspired production.
Despite having virtually no guitar-playing experience, a friend of Christopher’s dragged him to an audition.
“I grew up listening to Buddy Holly, so I could do his voice really well, his affected singing and the hiccups and stuff,” said Christopher, who also has Holly’s movements and stance down to a science.
West End directors liked what they saw, and tasked Christopher with learning “Everyday.”
“I sat on YouTube for three days with my friend’s guitar, went back in, played it deplorably. But the music director, he saw something and decided to give me a shot,” Christopher said, reflecting on how he had to learn 19 songs as both Holly and Allsup in a little under two months. “I accepted this crazy challenge and the way I did it was, I teamed up with Buddy Holly’s nephew Eddie Weir, gigging around with him playing bars until three in the morning. It was crazy to do. I don’t know if I could ever do that again, but there was something driving me that was kind of almost supernatural.”
It wasn’t until the West End director informed Christopher he was talented enough to perform for a living, that he officially said “goodbye” to his medical ambitions. He moved to New York in 2012, and has since appeared in the 25th anniversary national tour of Buddy, as well as Jersey Boys and Hank Williams: Lost Highway.
Christopher is thrilled to be part of Buddy again and provide Bucks County music lovers with an in-depth look at his favorite artist’s life.
“He was a forefather of rock and roll and a pioneer there, but he was also a pioneer in just breaking apart from the typical socioeconomic order of operations of the day, playing the Apollo Theater as a white act, and just not caring about any of that stuff and really just tuning into the music,” he said. “All of the music is still so timeless today. It never gets boring.” ••
If you go…
Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story will play the following schedule: Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m.; Wednesdays at 2 p.m.; Thursdays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Tickets start at $65. Special discounts are available for groups of 10 or more.
For full details and to purchase tickets, visit buckscountyplayhouse.org, call 215–862–2121 or visit the box office at 70 S. Main St., New Hope.
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org