THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO --- September 22, 2013 --- “Over the top” is all I can say about the current production BUDDY: THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY at Thunder Bay's Magnus Theatre. This piece is a triumph for Artistic Director Mario Crudo and Music Director Danny Johnson. As word spreads throughout the community I am certain that many of their performances will be sold out and if possible I am predicting an extension of their planned production run.
I review lots of music concerts and quite a few plays. With concerts I have a personal challenge I like to take on, “what is the concert of the year”? Now that I am writing about theatre I can ask the same thing, “what is the production of the year?” I can honestly say that I have attended many good productions at Magnus over the past few season, but in my opinion this current production stands out above them all.
Here is what I like; the closing numbers had no less than 13 musicians on stage. After seasons of 1-4 actor productions the number of performers on stage adds depth and richness to the production in a way that technical innovation cannot. Speaking of technical innovation that was done so seamlessly that you would scarcely notice it, very classy multimedia clips played while the actors were on stage were extremely effective. Not only was there talent in abundance on stage but also behind the scenes.
Speaking of scenes I chose this image because of the authentic 1950’s style microphones used in the production. I wonder where the theatre managed to did those up. The wardrobe and set were ideally suited to both the theatre and the play. The talent of the back stage crew is a match for what is on stage.
Now I grew up in a classical household and missed a lot of pop culture growing up, I can say I recognized most of the tunes on stage but the script by Alan Janes told the story of Buddy Holly in a way that put his fame and music in perspective. Pop culture and music is now being written up by music historians and there is a wealth of detail in their work because their subjects are often still alive. While Buddy Holly died in 1959 there were many people in the audience who listened to his music on the radio while he was still alive.
Like classical music the change in style from one epoch to the next still left hit music that contained a lot of hang-over technique from the previous generation’s music. For one thing while Buddy Holly started out with a three piece ensemble as his fame grew so did the size of the band. I really liked the inclusion of the Doo-Wah girls in the band. They were extremely effective in terms of adding some bling to the stage production.
Jeff Giles plays the role of Buddy Holly. His casting for this role is perfect and if I had never heard of Buddy Holly I would be convinced that what I was seeing on stage was the real thing. There were so many characters on stage that I cannot write about them all, but I will say thank-you so much for a wonderful evening out.
Last Friday night; the Magnus Gala performance momentarily transformed the theatre into the Apollo night club of the 1950’s Bronx New York. The entire audience followed the story closely as the band prepared to play its first performance in a “black” night club. The power of the theatre, the ability to tell a story with sight, sound and actions on stage becomes that much more powerful when music is added into the mix. Magnus Board member Christina Filazzola told me “Musical productions always pack the house”, in response to my question about the expense of this show. For the next three weeks we will have the equivalent of a live Broadway production playing right here in Thunder Bay.
By now word of mouth will be praising this show all throughout the city. The best thing to do now is call the box office at 345 -5552 to reserve your seat while they are still available.
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