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November 29, 2014
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Crowd pleasers

TRR photo by Jonathan Fox Goo Goo Dolls lead vocalist John Rzeznik rocks the house at Bethel Woods.


As much as I love doling out my opinion on the various events happening throughout the Hudson Valley, there are times (believe it or not) that I look to the audience for inspiration. This past week offered a perfect opportunity to keep my mouth shut (yes, it’s possible) and tune in to conversations heard ‘round every corner. I managed to get my two cents in from time to time, but felt it prudent to hear what others had to say.

The Forestburgh Playhouse (www.FBplayhouse.org) is currently presenting Alan Jones’ “The Buddy Holly Story,” a musical tribute to the late, great country-turned-Doo Wop master of all things “Peggy Sue.” The show is packed with tidbits about Holly’s life, his meteoric rise in the music scene of the late 1950s and his untimely death just as his star was reaching a zenith that few performers experience in an entire lifetime.

Musician/actor Todd Meredith embodies the spirit of Holly and croons his way into the hearts of the audience as the story unfolds. Performing more than 20 songs in Holly’s repertoire, Meredith is assisted by the glowing talent of Bill Morey (who works that bass into a frenzy) Kyle Axman and Jerry Allison, with excellent turns by supporting players Kevin Confoy, Galyana Castillo and Ariana Sepulveda. The first act left the packed house breathless with anticipation.

Eavesdropping was fun, but I couldn’t resist a few comments of my own. Hearing me wonder how the show would address Holly’s untimely death in 1959, a horrified ticket holder took me aside, saying that I had just “ruined the ending” for her. I explained that I thought it was understood how the story ends, since (not unlike “Titanic”) we took our seats knowing the ship would sink before the final curtain.

But the woman argued with me, insisting that J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson was very much alive and had not died in that fateful crash along with mega-star Richie Valens (portrayed with gyrating style by David Marmanillo). Not wanting to burst more bubbles, I admitted that I could be wrong (knowing full well that I was not) and promised not to give away any more plot points.

Now in his second season at the playhouse, Max Nussbaum (as the Bopper) embraced his role and rocked the house with a dead-on rendition of “Chantilly Lace,” lending even more credence to the perception that these guys are still alive. Their music has never died.

While I enjoyed the ride, it was the audience reaction that really moved me, since the sold-out crowd was on its feet, clapping and singing along as the show reached it’s crescendo, culminating in a rare standing ovation that was (IMHO) well deserved, an opinion that does not often cross my mind. Sheepishly avoiding my gaze, the gal whose bubble had been burst at intermission slinked out of the theatre, clearly loath to acknowledge that (for something completely different) my musical history lesson was correct.

Feeling that I was on to something, I veered off the road and into my seat at the Bethel Woods Performing Arts Center (www.bethelwoodscenter.org) to learn more about ‘80s rock explosion The Goo Goo Dolls. Again, I observed more than participated as the seats filled for opening band Parachute and the wildly popular Michelle Branch, who performed fresh hits from her new album, before The Dolls hit the stage, electric guitars wailing.

Lead singer John Rzeznik (no clue how that is pronounced) illustrated what crowd pleasing is as the band rocked the pavilion with their unique brand of entertainment (translation: loud—really, really loud) as I adjusted my earplugs and came to understand why millions of fans are “Ga Ga for Goo Goo.” Ingenuous and disarming, the band mates were in synch and I found myself digging the (slightly muffled) intricate sound.

“Thanks for being our friend for all these years” Rzeznik shouted to the audience, which encompassed generations. Ranging from teens to senior citizens, Goo Goo Dolls aficionados come in a variety of flavors, and I overheard several commenting on the scope and complexity of the bands’ history, which has enjoyed a healthy run that shows no signs of slowing down.

I could have felt like a dinosaur at a show such as this, but thankfully did not, and have developed a new appreciation for ‘80s rock that I thought had passed me by. Grasping the fact that there are gaps in my musical education is good for me, but I am looking forward to upcoming shows at Bethel Woods featuring Janet Jackson and Elton John, since I suspect I’ll be on firmer ground. All hail rock and roll!