Brian Richmond remembers being in the front yard listening to rock ‘n’ roll on the transistor radio when he heard the tragic news.
It was 1959 when Buddy Holly and music stars died in a plane crash, later dubbed as the day the music died.
“I was 12 years old,” recalls the artistic director of the Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre. “I remember it coming over the news and how sad I felt and how everyone felt at the time … Buddy Holly was phenomenal. He was so seminal to a form of pop-rock in the 1950s. “
Richmond’s fondness for Holly’s music, however, wasn’t the driver behind his decision to bring in a touring production about the musician.
“I don’t think I would have brought the production here, had I not gone over to Vancouver to see the Buddy Holly Story … It is not an exaggeration to say the audience was up dancing in the aisles … The music was phenomenal.”
Richmond attended the show on a casting search. Zachery Stevenson, who plays Holly, was one of Richmond’s students around the turn of the millenium, back when Richmond was chair of the department of theatre at the University of Victoria.
Victorians have come to know Stevenson in several professional acting roles, including Hank Williams, as well as through his pop-folk duo, called the Human Statues.
Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story premiered in 1989. This production was produced by Vancouver’s Arts Club.
It’s the first time Victoria’s Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre, launched in 2008, has brought in a show by another theatre company.
“It’s an experiment for us,” said Richmond. “It’s a little bit scary because you have to make a fairly large financial commitment to doing this kind of thing. You have to just hope that people will like it.”
The venture seems to be going well. As of Nov. 4, 2,000 tickets had been sold, representing 60 per cent of seats available for the three-performance run. Already, Blue Bridge has broken even on its investment.
“It’s getting up to being one of our highest pre-sells,” he said.
Success could mean Blue Bridge starts presenting more outside productions, alongside the three they produce each year.
“I’m more than happy to say this is a phenomenally entertaining show,” said Richmond.
The year 1959 marked the end of a decade “we view as our childhood, and one of the happiest periods in our culture,” he explained. “Holly represented this aspect of ‘50s life. … Given our rather tumultuous and uncertain times, it’s nice to remind ourselves of this kind of youthful joy.”
Mark your calendar
• What: Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story
• Where: Royal Theatre
• When: Nov. 15 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 16 at 2 and 8 p.m.
• Tickets: Evening performances – $53.25 for adults, $48 for students and seniors. Matinees are $48.25 for adults and $40 for students and seniors, at rmts.bc.ca or 250-386-6121.