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The Buddy Holly Story opens at Tacoma Musical Playhouse

Hit songs from rise to fame to tragic end

More than 20 of Buddy Holly’s hit tunes are featured in the show. Photo courtesy of Venice Theatre, FL. Credit: Renee McVety

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Don McClean said the day Buddy Holly died was "the day the music died," but Buddy's music will never die. I first saw BUDDY at the Tacoma Little Theatre in 2009 and then at the Capital Playhouse in 2012. And now it's going to rock the big stage at the Tacoma Musical Playhouse, opening May 15 and running through June 7.

"Before the Beatles, The Beach Boys or The Rolling Stones ever played a note, rock ‘n roll was forever changed by Buddy Holly, a 19-year-old kid from Texas," said TMP Artistic Director Jon Douglas Rake. "BUDDY - The Buddy Holly Story tells the true story of Holly's meteoric rise to fame, from the moment in 1957 when ‘That'll Be the Day' hit the airwaves until his tragic death less than two years later. The show features more than twenty hits, including ‘That'll Be the Day,' ‘Peggy Sue,' ‘Maybe Baby' and ‘Oh Boy'!"

In addition to many of Holly's hit songs, audiences will be treated to rousing renditions of the Big Bopper's "Chantilly Lace," and Richie Valens' iconic "La Bamba," as performed in their final concert in Clear Lake, Iowa, in 1959 before the plane wreck that took their lives.

The play opens with Holly (Matt McClure) as a raw teenage singer at the KDAV Radio dance party at the Grand Ballroom in Lubbock, Texas, defiantly sliding from a standard country tune to a rocking "Reddy Teddy" and later fighting with his manager and a record producer because they want him to sing country and he wants to rock ‘n' roll. It follows him to recording studios in Nashville and Clovis, New Mexico and then to the great Apollo Theatre in Harlem where he wows the audience with some of his most popular hit tunes, including "Peggy Sue" and "Not Fade Away." We see him romancing and marrying Maria Elena (played by Deanna Martinez Niedlinger) and finally the big concert with Richie Valens (Anthony Deleon) and the Big Bopper (Lance Zielinski).

McClure played Buddy Holly for the first time at the sold-out run of the show at the Venice Theatre in Florida in January of this year. He is a graduate of Piedmont College with BA degrees in Theatre Performance and Technical Theatre. Other than Holly, some of his favorite roles at the Venice Theatre were in Don't Dress For Dinner (Robert Dubedat) and in The Elephant Man (John Merrick).

The creative team for BUDDY is Rake, director and choreographer; Jeff Strvtecky, musical director; Bruce Haasl, technical director and set designer (he played Buddy at the Capital Playhouse and has both designed sets for and starred in more shows in area theaters than you can shake a stick at); and John Chenault, lighting director.

BUDDY - THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. Sundays through June 7, with Saturday matinees, May 30 and June 6, $20-$29, Tacoma Musical Playhouse, 7116 Sixth Avenue, Tacoma, 253.565.6867,

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