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Talent overcomes script in ‘Buddy Holly Story’

There’s not much story to “Buddy — The Buddy Holly Story,” and that winds up being a good thing.

The inept script to this jukebox musical often fades into the background by turning the controls over to singers who perform an almost nonstop concert. And when the entertainers are spellbinding, as they are in Super Summer Theatre/P.S. Productions’ current mounting, then who even remembers what the script is supposed to be about?

Brandon Albright, in white socks, cuffed jeans and black glasses, submerges his leading man good looks to bring alive the geeky rock ‘n’ roll pioneer. But he and director Phil Shelburne manage something more honest than impersonation.

Albright has the vocal chops and charisma to make us believe this man would take the late-1950s music scene by storm. He’s able to get at Holly’s steely determination, tunnel vision and soft side. It’s a multi-faceted depiction that goes deeper than the role deserves.

Luckily, Albright is not the whole show. Lou De Mels, as the admirable agent Hipockets Duncan, gives the production its anchor in an opening and closing scene that introduces us and bids farewell to the evening’s subject. De Mels communicates mounds of warmth and dignity in a no-nonsense way.

As Holly’s early-days bandmates, Jeremy Gill and Brian Gressley match up well with Albright, vocally and physically. And Paul May as the Big Bopper begets the essence of every over-sized, overstated gyrating entertainer you’ve ever been assaulted by. He stretches words like “baby” and “know” into five or six teasing syllables. And he fills out the proscenium with the sort of dominance you’d expect from a major personality.

The expertise in brief vocal solos, duets, trios, ensemble and instrumentals is surprisingly nonstop. It creates a euphoria that at one point literally leaps from the stage: During the finale, Albright jumps into the audience as if his joy could no longer be contained on a mere stage.

Tracey Langran Corea’s energetic, sensual choreography is rich in attitude and play. Evan A. Bartoletti’s set is refreshingly understated. He uses quiet, geometrically interesting symbols to suggest mood, rather than the gaudy, stretched-out look we’ve come to expect from ’50s musicals. And David Schulman’s lights suggest the loud excitement of the entertainment industry as skillfully as they communicate the gentleness of intimacy.

Shelburne’s assembled so much genuine talent that we feel we’ve been dumped into the middle of the world of show biz. “Buddy” is about the power of music to transform, and you just can’t argue the point any better than this.

Anthony Del Valle can be reached at DelValle@aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.

 

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