Toronto’s Lower Ossington Theatre presents musical bio play Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story
I walked into the Lower Ossington Theatre to see Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story not knowing much about Buddy besides the glasses, “the day”, and the hit songs from my mother’s cassettes she recorded when she was not that much older than the rock legend. What I learned was the boy from Lubbock, Texas had heart, soul, and a deep need to rock n’ roll, and rock n’ roll he did in his short time near and at the top of the charts.
Buddy gives us three years in the life of Buddy Holly and details his struggle to break from “safe” country music to play the music “the kids wanted to hear:” rock ‘n’ roll. Buddy succeeds, after initial push-back from his managers and producers, to become the rock legend he is today.
Split into two acts, the first focuses more on storytelling with music as its support, which was great and interesting enough, but it is all just lead up to a second act that plays more like a Buddy Holly concert.
The last hour starts with a few well-timed comedic turns that, in retrospect, are a nod to writer Alan James setting up for the inevitable and tragic end. Most know about the day the music died, and after giving us a taste of that last concert from the Winter Dance Party Tour stop in Clear Lake, Iowa, the way that the tragedy is dealt with here has an impact that will be felt by even the most informed fan. It really was a powerful moment that had us in the audience speechless.
Buddy doesn’t send people away melancholy though. As soon as the lights come up, the energy of the show is saved with two classic songs of pure rocking fun.
Notable performances come from Nigel Irwin as Buddy, who plays him with a subtle strength and confidence. Thomas James Finn, who plays a supporting role in the first act, comes out literally swinging, dancing, and jumping, packing the power of a hurricane as the Big Bopper in the second.
Dan Kosub and Kevin Forster perform admirably as Buddy’s Crickets playing drums and bass with ease, and both display great comedic timing. Rebecca Hergett, Diana Chrisman, and Angelica Thompson also deserve mention for their musical talent and versatility, each playing a variety of characters throughout the show.
One thing that should be noted is that all of the performers sing and play their instruments live, which I felt added an authenticity to the show. It’s one thing to memorize lines and stage directions, but to add the additional layer of music and choreography is no small feat and all the players should be proud of their efforts.
In addition to the performers, Director Alan Kinsella, Musical Director Mike Ross, and Stage Manager Nicole de Angelis deserve kudos for keeping everything on point, poignant, and running smooth.
While Buddy Holly didn’t have a long life or career, the impact he made was legend making. If you are looking for a show with feeling and fun, I recommend getting down to the Lower Ossington Theatre and sharing a couple hours with Buddy.
- Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story is playing until October 25th at the Lower Ossington Theatre (100A Ossington Ave.)
- Shows run Thursday to Sunday. Thursday and Friday at 7:30pm, Saturday at 2:00pm and 7:30pm, and Sunday at 4:00pm.
- Ticket prices range from $49.99 to $69.99 and are available online, or through the box office at (416) 915-6747
Photo of Angelica Thompson, Kevin Forster, Rebecca Hergett, Dan Kosub, Diana Chrisman, Nigel Irwin, Thomas James Finn, Mike Buchanan, and William Alexander Doyle by Seanna Kennedy.