Zachary Stevenson Says Hello to Chicago as Buddy Holly
Photo Credit: Cim McDonald Photo
Buddy Holly only enjoyed a few years of performing his music to adoring fans before a tragic plane crash cut his life short at just 22 years old. Knowing that, having performed on and off as Holly in Buddy—The Buddy Holly Story for 12 years is surreal for actor Zachary Stevenson.
“I’ve now sung Buddy Holly songs more than Buddy Holly,” Stevenson says. “It is a bit weird.”
“That dawned on me and it’s neat, in a way, but it’s also sad in a certain way too. I sometimes wonder what Buddy Holly would think of me performing as him for so long. It’s a bit strange in some ways, but I like to think I do him honor.”
Even in the bittersweet moments it’s impossible for Stevenson not to reflect on the ways in which Holly has impacted his life.
When he took his first shot at the role in 2006 it was just a summer gig in Ontario. Stevenson never would have imagined spending so much time playing one character.
He says there is so much to love about the show. From the talented performers drawn to it to the delight it brings to so many audiences. Part of the joy in performing as Holly is greeting audiences afterwards and seeing how much Holly’s music means to them.
“People share their stories with me,” Stevenson says. “They remember where they were when they heard he (Holly) died or their older sibling played the records. Or it takes them back to their childhood home. They remember dancing with their first love to a Buddy Holly song or a Buddy Holly song was their wedding song...It really means a lot to them to experience this kind of a show. It’s really transporting for them.”
Night after night Stevenson sees groups of energized audiences who are equally captivated by Holly’s work.
Sometimes shows based on real people—Million Dollar Quartet or Jersey Boys for example— get tossed aside or labeled as just “nostalgia trips.” But for audiences these shows can have a power that’s almost indescribable.
“There is a deeper meaning beyond the culmination of words and music,” Stevenson explains. “People have experiences connected to it which is deeper than just the surface. It’s much deeper than what we can put out there. We can’t imagine what that means.”
Professional impacts aside playing Holly has influenced even Stevenson’s personal life.
He says he met his wife during a production of Buddy in Kansas City several years ago. Some of his best friends have been part of past productions and the show has linked him to other “Buddys” all over the world.
The show even prompted a move from Canada to the United States.
“It’s the gift that keeps on giving in a way,” Stevenson says of the show.
When Stevenson and his wife finally made the plunge to move to Chicago earlier this year—a move they’d looked forward to for some time—there “Buddy” was once again to greet him.
Stevenson jumped at the chance to take up the role once again.
What better way to say “hello” to a new city?
“Moving to a new city can be very hard,” Stevenson says. “This experience has made me feel welcome I’m very happy for it.”
“Buddy—The Buddy Holly Story” is playing now in its extended run with American Blues Theater until September 15. For tickets call (773) 327-5252 or visit online at americanbluestheater.com.