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Clinton Township

September 18, 2013

Buddy Holly’s story is a stage-turner

By Maria Allard
C & G Staff Writer

» click to enlarge «
Todd Meredith gets into the groove while performing in Broadway’s “Buddy — The Buddy Holly Story,” coming to the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts in Clinton Township Sept. 27-28 .

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Buddy Holly’s legacy did “Not Fade Away.”

Although the young musician — along with the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens — lost his life in a plane crash in February 1959, his music has always had an audience.

His songs tell his tale in Broadway’s “Buddy — The Buddy Holly Story” Sept. 27-28 at the Macomb Center for the Performing Arts. Fans will be dancing in the aisles before the night’s end to Holly’s classics “Peggy Sue,” “Every Day,” “Oh, Boy,” and “That’ll Be The Day.”

“Buddy Holly was one of the creators of rock and roll,” Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Exhibition Coordinator Shelby Morrison said in a prepared statement. “Along with other early rockers, he not only paved the road for future and contemporary artists, but bulldozed and jack-hammered the road. His music inspired artists who came after him, and we still hear echoes of Holly on the radio today.”

The Macomb Center shows were originally set for Sept. 20-21, but were rescheduled for the following weekend. Ticket holders unable to attend on the rescheduled dates and times may exchange their tickets for another show during the current season, for a gift certificate or receive a full refund.

Todd Meredith, who grew up in Albany, N.Y., on his parents’ “oldies music,” fastens on a six-string guitar and horn-rimmed glasses to become Buddy Holly. Meredith, 28, described the production as a jukebox musical.

“You get to hear his music within the show,” Meredith said. “It’s good, fun music. People are going to get up and dance. It’s more of a concert than anything else.”  

The actor, rehearsing with cast members in New York City last week, always knew of the late singer who died at age 22, but his interest grew when he secured the role of the famed rock ‘n’ roll star. Meredith did “a lot of research” to get down Holly’s voice, guitar playing, mannerisms and look.

“He had a specialized style of guitar-playing,” Meredith said of the Lubbock, Texas, native. “He played with a lot of down strokes. He was also known for moving around all over the stage and jumping around a lot. I definitely do that, too.”

Act One begins around the time the term “rock ‘n’ roll” was coined in the 1950s. Meredith and cast members rock out to Holly’s rise to stardom with his band, the Crickets.

Meredith said the band was known as the first white group to perform at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

“You get pumped up before each performance,” Meredith said. That’s where the cast and audience gel. “We break down the fourth wall. We try to keep it pretty upbeat through the whole show.”

Act Two delves into Holly’s marriage to Maria Elena Santiago, his solo career, more musical success and the plane crash that ended it all.

“It weaves into a big concert at the very end of the show,” Meredith said.

That “big concert” would be Holly’s final performance, a Feb. 2, 1959, show played at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.

Holly, Valens and J.P. Richardson, professionally known as the Big Bopper, were among a group of musicians traveling the Midwest on the “Winter Dance Party” tour, which experienced  snowstorms and bus transportation problems.

After the show, the three singers chartered a small plane on a dark, wintery night to get them to their next gig. They never made it. The plane crashed into a snowy field in the early morning hours of Feb. 3. The plane’s pilot, Roger Peterson, also died. Known as “the day the music died,” the story still makes one feel a lump in the throat.

“No matter how many times you do it, it still affects you,” Meredith said.

Meredith is such a Buddy Holly fan that his band the Rave-Ons have a touring show dubbed “The Night The Music Lived.” The trio takes its name from a Holly song, “Rave On.”

“It’s a shame we didn’t get to know what he would have done,” Meredith said. “Right before he died, he was trying to make his own label. He would have been a big influence in the industry. I guarantee it.”

“Buddy — The Buddy Holly Story” is the first of four Broadway musicals at the Macomb Center this season. The others are “GODSPELL,” “The Addams Family Musical” and “Memphis the Musical.”

Broadway packages are available for $228 for gold circle seats and $208 for house seats. Individual tickets are $65 gold circle and $60 house. Seniors 55 and older, students, and military members save $5 per ticket.

To purchase tickets for the “Buddy — The Buddy Holly Story” and for information on “GODSPELL,” “The Addams Family Musical” and “Memphis the Musical,” visit www.macomb center.com or call (586) 286-2222. For more information on the Rave-Ons, visit www.rave-ons.com.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Maria Allard at allard@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1045.