The Walnut Street Theatre concludes its season with an all-new production of “Buddy — The Buddy Holly Story,” beginning with previews today and running through July 15.
Seen around the globe by millions of people, the show features the music of Holly, who managed to change the face of popular music and pave the way for the next generation of rock ‘n’ rollers only to meet an untimely death at an early age in a plane crash.
Appearing as one of the featured performers at the Apollo in Harlem is multi-talented Troy Valjean Rucker. Originally from Detroit, Rucker joins Danielle G. Herbert and Jim Thomas in this hit musical that features such rousing ’50s favorites as “Peggy Sue,” “La Bamba,” “Chantilly Lace” and many more.
Rucker, who is making his Walnut Street Theatre debut, grew up first as a musician. “My original plan was to become a performer and then go into conducting,” he explains. “But by my sophomore year at Wayne State University, I decided I’d rather be on stage as a performer, as an actor.”
And so he moved to New York to study acting and pursue his dream. “I had gone to a performing arts high school in Detroit, but back then everything I studied revolved around music, music, music. But I did find the time to act in a youth theater group and get some initial training in acting.”
So, although Rucker started out as a musician —which he continues to enjoy to this day — his plans were altered slightly. And his resume shows both sides of the man. He did a European Tour with the International Symphony Orchestra, performed at the Kennedy Center, as well as in the chorus of many operas at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. But he’s also done the National Tour of “Jesus Christ Superstar” and now this show, among other things.
“And one of the great things about this show is I get to do so much,” he explains. “I sing a little but I also get to play my saxophone. There is no orchestra pit in this show and all the musicians are on stage. So many of us do everything—we act, we sing and we make the music.”
Indeed, this is a show that absolutely fits into Rucker’s scheme of things. “I think the really cool part is to be in a show where I get to perform and enjoy many of the things I love doing most in the world.”
In fact, Rucker says about the only real challenge he faces is trying to represent the show’s time period truthfully.
“This is an historical and biographical piece, and so we must try hard to represent the story realistically. And the only other challenge I faced was learning to be a musician all over again. I’ve been in New York for 11 years and haven’t played an instrument consistently in all that time. So coming back to it and getting it all working together — my body and my fingers and learning to play every day — has been a challenge. But the transition was a lot easier than I thought it would be.”
And it’s all so enjoyable, he hopes audiences enjoy the show as much as he and his fellow performers do. And it looks like they do. After all, the original show opened in 1989, and audiences keep coming back for more.
“I think one reason they do is certainly the music,” Rucker points out. “Obviously, I wasn’t born at the time Buddy Holly was around, but there’s something so infectious about his music and the music of the period that its hard to sit still when you hear it. I had never seen a production of the show before I was cast in it, but I can see why audiences keep coming back. At the end of the show there’s a big concert, a big party, and I’m sure people will be dancing in the aisles.”
For times and ticket information, call (215) 574-3550.