J. A. Di Bello’s Review of The Buddy Holly Story

June 18, 2019

Forestburgh Play House


...February Made Me Shiver.

     The Forestburgh Playhouse, frequently referred to as a Miracle of the Forest, has established a reputation throughout the Northeast for producing superior theatre. Tuesday night’s opening of The Buddy Holly Story, impressively directed by Anthony Daniel, was no exception. Producer Franklin Trapp may not know the impact. This writer’s homeward journey, up and over the Shawangunk Ridge, was filled with more than indelible voices and tearful melodies, from a treasured past. Every time "All my love, All my kisses..." entered my consciousness and crossed the lips, the title from a well-known novel unkindly interrupted. Don’t you know? “You Can’t Go Home Again.”


However, you sure can visit. This stellar production of the Buddy Holly Story is down-right, unashamedly powerful, with the startling credibility to transport those of a particular age group back to a period when the surrounding universe made sense. For those who missed the adventure of the 50s, a multitalented, polished Michael Skiktberg delivered a credible energy packed Buddy Holly at the Playhouse. As an actor, Skiktberg provided the opportunity for one to participate and be a part of a social and musical history. A journey and destination so many cherish.

…can't remember if I cried
When I read about 
his widowed bride

The impact of a frigid night, a fated crash on a frozen corn field: a story that didn’t die.

But there remains no doubt, how the music from those days of glory “used to make me smile.” In 1958 a Mexican folk song, swept across the nation. “La Bamba,” by Richard Steven Valenzuela, known professionally as Ritchie Valens, was an over-night sensation, creating a whole new genre of popular music: Tejano music  also known as música tejana. On the main sage of the Forestburgh Playhouse, an exceptionally talented and potent Quentin Araujo delivers Valens to the gathered with undeniable stage presence and energy.

Valens’ “La Bamba” is preserved in the National Recording Registry as “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant.” An additional composition by Valens, popular with those who leaned cautiously against the gym’s walls, anticipating patiently those all-too-memorable “slow dances,” is the classic teen-age lament, “Donna.” It remains a beautiful piece, written for a lost girlfriend, whose parents prohibited her to date a Latino. It all ended on a frozen night in February, when Valens was 17.

I can still remember how
That music used to make me smile

For the incidents and events that “used to make me smile,” Franklin has done it again, especially with the characterization of the Big Bopper, J. P Richardson Jr., in Tuesday evening’s opening. Karack Osborn as The Bopper is outrageous! He presents, for all to savor a masterful recreation on stage, as the lyrics of “Chantilly Lace” are once again familiar and conjuring images. Know before getting too far into this that “Chantilly Lace” is suggestive, as in a reference to the revealing, silk lace made in the city of the same name in France. It’s a specialty item for the scantly clad. The lyrics are figurative, visually presenting a one-sided telephone conversation, as the self-confident Big Bopper describes his wants and wishes to his “true love.”

Chantilly lace and a pretty face
And a pony tail a hangin' down
That wiggle in the walk 
And giggle in the talk

Perhaps that was part of the appeal. Its simplicity, its bold frankness with little innuendo, it’s all upfront. Sort of a “what you see is what you get.” There’s the pretty little pony tail, an attractive waggle in that eye-catching wiggle and the cutest of all giggles in the talk. T’was the fifties; t’was the Miracle of the Forest and life goes on!

This review cannot be inclusive without accolades to this season’s Resident Company (ResCo), and to think they only just got here! As each new season rolls around Franklin Trapp cranks it up a notch and this year’s ResCo is no exception. In fact this notch might be a tad larger than past. To begin the group’s presentation at the pre-show cabaret is more than a warm up to the main stage. It’s what we’ll call “total emersion.” If the names Frankie Lymon, Bill Haley, Phil and Don Everly, The Penguins and a slow-dance special, entitled “Earth Angel,” ring any kind of a bell, stand prepared and be forewarned for a journey to be prized. To add one additional piece of brilliant theatre to what is already an over-the-top show, is a scene selection set at the Apollo Theatre, the performance mecca in Harlem, NY. It cannot be overlooked. Without providing a spoiler, members of this ResCo group, consisting of Aaron Patterson, Abeba Isacac, Breia Kelley and Amaya White, came about a whisker short of bringing the house down!  

The Buddy Holly story will continue its run at the Forestburgh Playhouse through Sunday, June 30. Tickets and reservations for the cabaret are available at 845-794-1144 or on line at https://tix5.centerstageticketing.com/sites/forestburgh/events.php

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