In the oft-maligned world of jukebox musicals, which rely on nostalgia and pre-existing content to create “new” theatrical work, there are a handful which stand on their own two feet, thanks to humble reincarnations and strong scripts. “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story” was a gem of a jukebox hit when it premiered in 1989 (which, for those counting, was years before its jukebox cousins would come trailing along).
For starters, you have a brilliant catalog of pioneering rock ’n’ roll hits sung by one of America’s true innocents, the boy next door who could swoon his way into fathers’ approval and daughters’ datebooks. Appearances by the Big Bopper and Richie Valens, who with Holly would perish in a plane crash on the “day the music died,” fill in memory’s gaps and reinforce just what an era this was.
MusicalFare returns to an era all its own with its revival of its 2008 hit production, then directed by Lisa Ludwig and now led by former cast member Paschal Frisina III. This new production tentpoles MusicalFare’s 25th anniversary season with a nod to one of its biggest sellers, a production that featured a brilliant cast of now-leading Buffalo talent. Frisina’s new, young cast pushes the theater forth into its next quarter-century. (Ernie Insana is the lone returning cast member, as Hipockets Duncan.)
A whole new Buddy Holly for a whole new generation; now that’s a respectable tribute. “Buddy” runs Feb. 4 through March 8 at MusicalFare (4380 Main St., Amherst). Visit www.musicalfare.com.