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Buddy--The Buddy Holly Story

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February 3, 1959 has entered rock 'n roll history as "The day the music died." That was the day that 22 year-old songster Charles Hardin (Buddy) Holly, along with fellow musicians Ritchie Valens, J.P. Richardson (aka, the Big Bopper) and the pilot Roger Peterson, died in an airplane crash while on a concert tour in the Midwest. That incident is immortalized in Don McLean's 1971 hit song, "American Pie."

Now the triumph and tragedy of that early era of rock ‘n roll is vividly and rhythmically recalled in the Laguna Playhouse’s effusive staging of Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story, onstage through August 10. And though Alan Janes’s musical is coming up to its 25th anniversary-- it premiered in London in October of 1989 before landing on Broadway a year later (where it played for 5,000 performances over a 12-year period)--this Orange County production, under Steve Steiner’s keen direction,  is as fresh and infecting as can be. That’s the beauty of live theater done well: it’s alive in the moment.

And Buddy – a menagerie of music, acting, and dancing (Steve Steiner also serves as musical director and choreographer) – is well done. In fact, while Buddy was a pioneer in and set the standard for the so-called jukebox musical genre, which has become so popular with shows such as Ring of Fire, about Johnny Cash and Jersey Boys, the tale of The Four Seasons, this Laguna production continues to reach the high bar achieved by the original incarnations of the show. It’s a toe-tapping, heartstring tugging delight.

Not only are nearly two-dozen song routines – with live musicians playing instruments that range from trombone to saxophone to  bass fiddle to violin to drums and a range of guitars – performed, we also glean the arc of Buddy Holly’s short but meteoric and groundbreaking musical career. As Buddy Holly, Todd Meredith is consummate both as a musician and as an actor. To say the least, it was and is to this day an impressive career with a notable songbook legacy. Numbers such as "Oh Boy," "That’ll be the Day," "Not Fade Away," and "Peggy Sue" (the story of this song’s origins is a nifty insight) remind us of the timing, wit, and natural musicality that define this early rocker.

What’s more, we are also treated to characterizations of the Big Bopper (Mike Brennan is fun and convincing in his rendition of the Big Bopper’s "Chantilly Lace"). Emilio Ramos nearly brings the house down when he performs "La Bamba" as Richie Valens. To a person, the 15 performers in Buddy are accomplished, including Buddy’s backup band, The Crickets (nicely embodied by Bill Morey, who acrobatically plays the bass fiddle, and Logan Farine pleasantly pounding out rhythms on the drums).

Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story is a must see for anyone who appreciates music, musical history, or a good time in the theater. It’s rare to see a show that fulfills on so many levels: It’s fun; it’s moving; it’s playing now. Don’t miss it.

Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story continues at the Laguna Playhouse through August 10. The Playhouse is located at 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach. Evening performances are Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. Matinees are at 2 p.m. on Saturdays and at 1 p.m. on Sundays (on Sundays there is also a 5:30 p.m. performance, except on August 10). For reservations call (949) 497 – 2787. For online reservations and further details visit The Laguna Playhouse.

 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.