Buddy Holly has been there for two very big moments in Michael Perrie Jr.’s life.
When he was a child, Perrie saw his cousin and uncle perform in a production of “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” which, for several reasons, set in motion Perrie’s dream of becoming a performer.
Seeing the musicians on stage inspired Perrie to eventually learn guitar and piano, and he recalls being in awe at seeing people he knew convincingly portraying people they weren’t.
It was also the first time he noticed the power those on stage had over the audience.
“‘Wow, it can move this whole room of people that are adults that I can’t even get them to give me anything, like a cookie, and now they’re standing up for this stranger singing a song. That’s ridiculous,’” Perrie said with a laugh. “That was fascinating to me, the power of it all to move a group of people like that.”
Years later, Perrie became the one moving those in the audience when he starred as Holly in the national tour of “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story.”
It was during the final show of the tour that Holly became forever tied to another milestone in Perrie’s life: his engagement.
Perrie’s onstage proposal to then-girlfriend Lacy Reily came after he sang Holly’s “Words of Love.”
Reily said yes and now tours with “Buddy” as company manager.
“That’s kind of full circle that I get to spend my time on the road with her,” Perrie said.
Perrie is now starring in his second national tour of “Buddy,” which comes to the INB Performing Arts Center on Saturday.
The Alan Janes musical follows the last three years of Holly’s life, from the formation of Buddy Holly and the Crickets to his marriage to Maria Elena Santiago and his final show at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, before he died in a plane crash on Feb. 3, 1959.
The musical opened in London in 1989 and features Holly classics like “Peggy Sue,” “That’ll Be The Day,” “Everyday,” “Maybe Baby” and “Think It Over.”
When researching the role, Perrie turned to a private Facebook group of Holly fans, taking in the photos and videos they shared.
He also studied the Buddy Holly Center’s website and listened to Holly’s recordings.
In between tours, Perrie appeared in a variety of productions, including another production of “Buddy,” this time playing the role of guitarist Tommy Allsup – who lost a coin toss and gave up his seat on the ill-fated plane to “La Bamba” singer Ritchie Valens – and acting as associate music director.
When it came time for his second tour with “Buddy,” Perrie wanted to apply what he learned about “less is more” to the role of Holly.
“I don’t want people to think ‘Oh, that guy does a really good impression of Buddy Holly when he’s playing,’ ” he said. “I want them to be like ‘That’s him.’ I think people a lot of times climb onto his vocal ticks when he was singing … But at the same time, he was a human being. He wasn’t just his music.”
This attention to detail, from Perrie and the rest of the cast, which includes Miguel Angel Brenes as Valens, James Fairchild as J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson and Hailey Aviva as Maria Elena, often inspires audience members to get involved.
Perrie recalls a recent performance in Toronto during which, after a scene where Holly puts his foot down and says “Well that’s just what I’m going to do,” the audience chimed in with “Yeah! You tell them!”
“That’s great because for us onstage, we don’t react to that stuff but we feel it,” Perrie said. “It fuels us.”
Perrie wants audience members to know that if they stick around after the show, he’s happy to chat and take pictures, seeing this time as an opportunity to thank those who supported the cast during the show.
Having been a fan of Holly for so long, Perrie calls being part of the show’s legacy astounding.
He said the success of “Buddy” is a testament to Holly’s life and music and the audience’s want to understand “How could somebody so talented be taken so fast and so soon?”
Even still, Perrie said the cast tries to help audiences remember Holly for the man and performer he was, not his tragic end.
“Even at the end, we don’t let you leave with this ‘Oh, I’m so sad he died,’ ” he said. “It’s like ‘Wow, he had a life. He did a lot. His music survived and that’s what we have.’ ”
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