Theatre Collingwood invites you to rock all night long with some of the hottest musicians of the 1950s.
If Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper had lived, there would have been so many more great songs. As it was the three musicians died in a plane crash mid-tour in the winter of 1959. If it were not for a series of unplanned coincidences, they would still be alive today.
Chris McHarge tells the tale when the show unfolds Nov. 21-23. McHarge, who created the show with music director Colin Stewart, acts as narrator and plays the Big Bopper character.
“There are a lot of little tidbits about the tour many people don’t know that we share about their lives,” said McHarge. “It’s not a tribute show. We are pretty clear we are us. We open the same way they opened (and follow) a similar structure. When we decided to create these theatrical tribute shows, (we wanted) a faithful recreation of their music and to tell their story.”
All of the artists were put together for the 1959 tour, which was dubbed Winter Dance Party. It included Dion and the Belmonts and Waylon Jennings, who served as Buddy Holly’s bass player.
It includes some of the most memorable songs by each artist: That’ll Be The Day (Buddy Holly); La Bamba, Donna (Ritchie Valens); Chantilly Lace (Big Bopper) and more.
McHarge, who divides his time between Hamilton and Chicago, met Stewart when he was directing a show at Theatre Aquarius in the mid-90s. When they crossed paths again, McHarge was serving as artistic and executive director of Fergus Grand Theatre. They decided to team up to create shows. Rockin’ All Night: Buddy, Ritchie & The Big Bopper is the latest of hits.
“Colin and I were having this conversation one day about what that concert must have been like – what it must have been like for the audience,” said McHarge. “We don’t get to see those caravan-style concerts, where there is a long list of stars, anymore. That’s where the inspiration came from, a show that imagines that concert.”
The show features a five-piece band that includes singer and multi-instrumentalist Aaron Solomon, who has performed in several McHarge-Stewart shows in the past, such as Johnny Cash in Johnny & June. In this one, he plays both Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens.
Stewart has worked as a professional musician for almost 30 years, performed in clubs and theatres throughout Canada and on Carnival Cruise Lines around the world. Currently based out of London, Ont., he tours with all the live musical tributes shows, playing bass and serving as musical director.
McHarge started out as an actor but moved into directing, which he still does, freelance. Over the course of his career, he has directed more than 100 productions. He has three adult children who are all “hooked” on music from the 50s and 60s.
Rockin’ All Night: Buddy, Ritchie & The Big Bopper rocks the Gayety Theatre Nov. 21-23. For tickets, see theatrecollingwood.ca or call 1-866-382-2200.
Photo: Aaron Solomon stars in Rockin’ All Night, playing both Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens, for Theatre Collingwood Nov. 21-23.