Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Buddy Holly Story in Winter Haven

Magically, Buddy Holly seems to return to the stage in Winter Haven Florida every year. He has performed live in 2012 and 2013. This year Andy Matchett is playing Buddy. I've seen him perform as Buddy Holly before and it seems a roll he was destined to perform. The drive down to Winter Haven turned out to be more of an adventure than I had bargained for. My GPS showed multiple accidents on I-4 so I took back roads all the way south through Kissimmee. It poured on the whole trip south. lightning flashed brilliantly etching shadowed scars in my retinas. It seemed like everyone knew this back route because the traffic on the country road slowed to a crawl. A trip that the GPS predicted would be an hour became two and a half hours.

I was actually quite impressed by Theatre Winter Haven (210 Cypress Gardens Blvd, Winter Haven, Fl) when I arrived. Although the facade was a sterile cinder block wall, the interior was spacious and there was room in the wings for some impressive set changes. I also liked that an art gallery was part of the theater complex. Art on display in the lobby showed that there were some skilled draftsmen in the town.

The show is Co-Produced by Dr. and Mrs. Robert Cassell and Marilyn Riggs. Over 50 years ago, the man who changed the face of popular music tragically died in a plane crash at age 22. The Buddy Holly Story tells the story of the three years in which he became the world's top recording artist with a show that features over 20 of Buddy Holly's greatest hits including 'Peggy Sue', 'That'll Be The Day', 'Oh Boy',‘Everyday’, 'Not Fade Away', 'Rave On' and 'Raining In My Heart'.

Buddy Holly was someone who passionately knew what he wanted in his music and life. He met Maria Elena (Hannah Corlew) because she worked as a secretary at his recording label. From the moment he met her, he knew he would marry her. Five days later, he did. He truly lived like every day might be his last. Rehearsals and recording sessions were at times playful and exhausting as he strived for the perfect sound. His band, The Crickets (Marcus Brixa, Kemp Brinson and Josh McNair) grew disgruntled with the endless retakes.

The end of the show featured a high energy concert with Buddy, Richie Valens (Alex La Torre) who had some amazing hip moves, and The Big Bopper (Tom Mesrobian).  The entire ensemble was onstage for this high energy concert. It was a winter concert and there was a blizzard outside. After the concert these three performers would board a plane which was destined to crash. The music came to an abrupt end and a lone microphone stood in a spotlight. After the show, the director had notes for the cast. He said, "We have a good show, it was a good rehearsal, some things need to be gelled, touched and massaged."

Driving home, the music was still echoing in my head. I drove past ancient MacDonald's arches and then  neon restaurant signs that hearkened back to the 50s. There was nothing to remind me of the present. I was driving through the twilight year of 1959. Then the black country road erased all visual clues. The road curved and grass blurred past my windows in the headlight's gleam. I had to trust that I could navigate each unknown curve at 50 miles per hour. It would be so easy to slip of this thin thread into the void.

The Buddy Holly Story runs from July 18 through August 3rd. Tickets: $24 Adults, $21 Students

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

1 comment:

Kemp Brinson said...

This is an incredibly cool image of our show. Thank you so much for taking the time to create it.