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New West Theatre embraces the life and music of Buddy Holly in Buddy

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New West Theatre explores the life of rock and roll icon Buddy Holly in their new musical “Buddy; the Buddy Holly story, running at 7:30 p.m. each night Sept. 4-21.
The 12 member cast of the Alan Jones penned rock and roll musical all multi-task, playing different instruments as well as characters.

Fraser Elsdon plays Buddy Holly in New West Theatre’s production ofBuddy: The Buddy Holly Story. Photo by Richard Amery
“ It’s great I get to work with a really big band,” enthused musical director Kathy Zaborsky, who also plays  Vi Petty.
“ This show is pure joy. It’s a celebration of rock and roll,” she enthused.
“It’s a biography of Buddy Holly. It’s a musical that tells the story of his life from his hits to the his last show before the plane crash,” Zaborsky continued.

“ We have 12 cast members which is large for a rock and roll musical,” she said.

 There are several familiar faces on the cast including Garrett Mallory Scott, who was in Shakespeare in the Park this year, New West Theatre veteran Rylan Kunkel, Jocelyn Brayne who returns to New West after a few years hiatus and Lethbridge singer Mwansa Mwansa who returns home from Toronto for this show. The cast also includes  Tony Zappone, Daniel Sequeira, Joel Gray, Zach  Peterson and Theo Lysyk.

“We’ll see Buddy Holly and the Crickets being forced to play country music against their will when they record at the Decca Studios. Then they go to New Mexico to record Nor-Va-Jak studio and play rock and roll. And they end up in New York where Buddy meets and falls in love with Maria and I won’t reveal any more than that,” Zaborsky said.
 The productions also includes several  people who have performed in the  show before including Fraser Elsdon, who plays Buddy Holly and Nayeli Abrego, who plays his love interest  Maria Elena and Marlena Walker. Elsdon, not only looks like Buddy Holy, but does a great job of performing his songs and showing his stubbornness  in terms of his music.
“ You’re the nicest guy in the world, unless it’s about your music, then you’re stubborn,” quips Hipockets Duncan, his first manager and the first DJ to give Holly a break.

 The first half of the show shows Buddy Holly and his band the Crickets as young, hungry, up and coming musicians determined to play their music their way. It explores a hectic 18 months in 1957 leading up to their final concert , Feb. 3, 1959.

They work on their version of  rock and roll in studios in Lubbock, has run ins with DJ/ manager  Hipockets Duncan, gets sent to New Mexico to record with Norman Petty and writes a string of popular hits, changes the name of Cindy Lou to Peggy Sue to appease his bassist, who’s girlfriend is named Peggy Sue. Garrett Mallory Scott adds a lot of comic relief to an already hilarious show first as Norman Petty and later as the Big Bopper. Holly’s hits are well represented in the show including “Peggy Sue”, “That’ll Be The Day”, “Oh Boy”, “Not Fade Away”, “Everyday”, “Rave On”, “Heartbeat”, and “Raining in My Heart,” to name a few. That eventually leads them to New York, where they bravely play the Apollo Theatre, because music has no colour. There, a sassy Mwansa Mwansa sings a beautiful soulful version of “You Make me Want to Shout,” and warns the Crickets that they’d better be good or else they’ll be dead. I wanted to hear more of her, so her version of “Shout” and her sassy humour is much welcomed.

 In the meantime, Buddy, enjoying his newfound fame, has traveled to England and meets Maria and asks her to marry him within five hours of meeting her.
 The show moves through just over two years pretty quickly. It opens with Buddy playing his hometown radio station and a few of the other acts also on the bill, which gives Jocelyn Brayne, Kathy Zaborsky and Nayeli Abrego to show off some delightful, three part country style harmonies. Zaborsky is adorably funny as Vi Petty, not to mention monstrously talented on keyboards and on celeste, the beautifully chiming instrument on Holly’s hot hit  “Everyday.”


The second half of the show is all about Buddy’s last concert with Richie Valens and larger than life personality J.P Richardson aka The Big Bopper, played by a hilarious and show stealing Garrett Mallory Scott, who sings a boisterous version of his big hit “Chantilly Lace.”

 The second act features a very cool horn section of  Rylan Kunkel playing saxophone, trumpeter Nayeli Abrego, and  Jocelyn Brayne, who learned to play trombone just for this show. They end with a group performance of “La Bamba.”

 It could have ended on  the sombre note of the sole spotlight shining on Buddy’s acoustic guitar with the announcement of the Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Richie Valens’ deaths in the plane crash on Feb. 3, 1959. But Buddy is a celebration of the timelessness of the music, so the cast returns for a group performance of “Johnny B Goode,” featuring Kathy Zaborsky tearing up the 88s and then one last version of Buddy Holly’s “Oh Boy,” with the cast and that fabulous horn section.
Buddy runs at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday through Saturdays. There are also matinee performances at 1 p.m. on the last two Saturdays of the run.
“ Get your tickets early. Because, like the Million Dollar Quartet, they will sell out fast,” Zaborsky said.

Tickets are  $33 for evening shows; $28 for matinees for adults; Students & Seniors – $28 for evening shows; $24 for matinees; Children – $18 for evening shows; $15 for matinees. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Yates Theatre.

If you want two free tickets to the show, be the first to e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it   and give me the name of your favourite New West cast member performing in this show.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 04 September 2019 10:20 )  
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