Story By Kyle Poluyko
Photos By Barry Wojciechowski
Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story is a huge undertaking for Magnus Theatre’s inaugural production of the season. After two seasons of relatively intimate shows with small casts, director Mario Crudo has giftedly filled the stage with a cast ofthirteen, crafting magic to tell the story of an amazing musician, the people who loved him and his fans.
Jeff Giles plays Buddy Holly and it is his show—he beautifully and sometimes painfully brings to life a man who believed passionately in his music, valued loyalty to a fault, and fell in love at first sight with the woman who would become his wife. Giles energizes the audience as he restlessly strives to break free of the country music binds into the new rock n’ roll. His youthful Holly has an infectious dynamism one can’t help but root for. As the inevitable pitfalls come with success and Holly is betrayed by the Crickets he fought to stand with, Giles not only portrays a heartbreaking devastation, he makes the audience feel his pain.
Each of the supporting cast members manage to steal their own moments and heighten the show’s vignettes. Scott Carmichael and Evan Hadley as the Crickets have precise comedic timing and deliver such with simple facial expressions that speak volumes. Danny Johnson skillfully plays manager Norm Petty as a skeptical man won over by Holly’s charisma, yet ruthless enough to dissolve his dreams. Doubling as the show’s musical director, Johnson has persuasively ensured that hits like “That’ll Be The Day,” “Peggy Sue,” “Oh Boy” and “La Bamba” are heard as they were meant to be.
Holly Wyder returns home to Thunder Bay to portray Maria Elena, the girl Holly loses his heart to in a glance. When she implores Holly not to leave her for his fateful tour, the urgency and pained emotion she delivers is felt deeply. Rounding out the cast are gifted actors, singers and musicians who seamlessly ferry between characters with credibility and gliding grace. Shawna van Omme, Michelle E. White, and Wyder as the Jingle Singers, with vocal and instrumental prowess, caressingly astound.
Set Designer Doug Robinson crafts scenes and executes changes in time and place with sets that fly in and track on stage, a complexity executed just as brilliantly as the simplicity of recent and more understated Magnus shows. Authentic and stunning period costumes by Mervi Agombar paint the era and shape the characters in nothing short of faithful representations. Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story is as loud, lively, bold and precious and the man lost too soon was. Crudo has served a gift of a production and created a spectacle that demands to be embraced and enjoyed.
Magnus Theatre’s production of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story runs through October 5th. For tickets and information call the box office at 345-5552 or book online at www.magnus.on.ca.
Jeff Giles as Buddy Holly and Ensemble
Holly Wider as Maria Elena Santiago, Evan Hadley as Joe Maudlin, Jeff Giles as Buddy Holly
Jeff Giles as Buddy Holly