Buddy Holly is back

The History Theatre puts on its own cozy revival of “the Buddy Holly Story.”

Martina Marosi

 

WHAT: The Buddy Holly Story

WHEN: Saturday through May 29

WHERE: History Theatre, 30 E. 10th St., Saint Paul

COST: $15 students; $28-32 general admission

Directed by: Ron Peluso

Starring: Nicholas Freeman, Josh Bourdon, Zach Spicer, Nora Montanez

Before hordes of die-hard âÄúPeggy SueâÄù fans flock to their nearest concert venues in search of tickets to witness a miracle on the heels of Easter Sunday, they ought to buy tickets to the next best thing until that second coming really comes along.

Saturday night, the History Theatre will kick off its intimate rendition of âÄúThe Buddy Holly Story,âÄù a theatrical tribute to the rock âÄônâÄô roll pioneer.

Before his premature death in a 1959 plane crash, the 22-year-old Holly had already managed to make a lasting stamp on the world of rock and roll. The music may have died on that cold day in Clear Lake, Iowa, but Thursday night, director Ron Peluso and his crew will do their best to bring a little of it back to life on the History TheatreâÄôs stage. Peluso is sure not to let HollyâÄôs tragic end cast a melancholic pall over the evening, which is dedicated to the impact and highlights of his brief career.

âÄúItâÄôs a celebration of his life âĦ itâÄôs hardly sad. ItâÄôs very fun. He was a risk-taker, he was bold, he did what he wanted to do, and he did it his way,âÄù Peluso said.

âÄúBuddy was the first one to âÄòsquare it up,âÄôâÄù music director Gary Rue noted. âÄúComing out of the bebop era, everybody was still swinginâÄô âĦ but [rock and roll] soon became king, and swing went over to the wayside and rock and roll just squared up.âÄù

Nerds also have Holly to thank for their unbridled success on the dating scene. âÄú[Holly] made glasses and geeky sexy,âÄù Rue said.

In addition to his reputation as a trailblazer for geek chic, Holly also crossed racial boundaries in his musical style and the CricketsâÄô memorable 1957 performance at the Apollo. Peluso was sure to handle the tense climate of a nation on the cusp of the civil rights era with great care âÄî an attention he and his peers found didnâÄôt exist in the original production.

âÄúIn the English version of it âĦ someone had suggested, and did in costuming, stuff a cucumber down BuddyâÄôs pants. And have him leap off the double bass and things like that,âÄù Rue said

âÄúWhile that may be entertaining, it simply isnâÄôt historically accurate,âÄù âÄúBuddy HollyâÄù star Nicholas Freeman said. Freeman, a casual guitar player when he was first offered the title role, soon became a Holly scholar, and in the span of a few months expanded his Holly repertoire beyond âÄúThatâÄôll Be the Day.âÄù âÄúThank God for YouTube,âÄù Freeman said.

During the performance season, Freeman only listens to HollyâÄôs music, and he was sure to hone in closely on HollyâÄôs stilted performance style more than the English productionâÄôs sensationalistic portrayal of a loose, Chuck Berry-like approach to the young guitaristâÄôs stage presence.

âÄúThe important issues that are touched on get lost if you treat it that way, and we decided to treat it as honestly as possible,âÄù Peluso said. He advised his performers to âÄúbe as real as [they] can be, be as honest, and play that music.âÄù

The cast and crew of âÄúThe Buddy Holly StoryâÄù went to great lengths to ensure that their production was not only sensitive in its treatment of its multi-faceted subject matter, but detailed in its presentation.

âÄúWe had a lot of purists come to the show last time,âÄù Rue said. The History TheatreâÄôs production of the show is actually the encore to a successful 2009 run of the show that played to nightly standing ovations after its closing number. The play even attracted the likes of HollyâÄôs Crickets bandmates, Jerry Allison and Sonny Curtis, who were so enthusiastic about the History TheatreâÄôs version of the show they stayed around for hours afterward to share their stories with performers. Allison and Curtis even went so far as to refund the licensing fees the theater had to pay to put on the production.

âÄúApparently we did it right, and weâÄôre doing it right again this year,âÄù Rue said.