Carl Beck, artistic director at the Omaha Community Playhouse, remembers Billy McGuigan from a time when McGuigan was in high school, auditioning for a part in a musical at the Omaha Community Playhouse. The audition was so memorable, that even though McGuigan was not cast, Beck said to himself, “don’t forget this kid." Beck promptly wrote down McGuigan's name and stuck it in a drawer. During a passing conversation years later, Beck discovered that McGuigan had quit acting to focus on starting a band. When OCP was slated to put on a production of the jukebox musical Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story in 2002, director Carl Beck remembered a young man with the charisma and singing talent the character of Buddy Holly demands. He thought, “We have got to check this guy out.”
Before long, Beck found McGuigan and brought him in for a meeting, explaining the role and asking for an audition. McGuigan's band was playing a show at Dubs Pub (currently The Waiting Room Lounge) located at 6212 Maple Street in Benson, and Beck offered to use the performance as an audition. Beck knew before the set list was done that this was the man to play Buddy Holly.
Intensive training sessions began the summer before production, where Billy and the cast making up the band used their free time to come into OCP and practice in the basement, working to recreate the sound of Buddy Holly’s music. McGuigan was a perfect example of a triple threat performer, with the ability to act, sing and dance, and evolved musically throughout the entire period of production.
During one of the first performances of Buddy, a tornado warning interrupted the show and herded the audience members, reviewers and cast downstairs to the Omaha Community Playhouse’s basement. To keep the audience engaged and entertained, the cast struck up some tunes and continued the Buddy Holly show music downstairs. Beck reflected that when the warning was over, everyone went right back upstairs to “continue the party.”
McGuigan has grown tremendously since first being cast as Buddy Holly, including developing the tribute shows Rave On: The Buddy Holly Experience, Yesterday and Today, an interactive concert experience that pays tribute to The Beatles and Rock Legends.
For a look at Rave On: The Buddy Holly Experience, check out this promotional video!
Don’t miss Rave On: The Buddy Holly Experience in the Howard Drew Theatre, June 10-26, Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Ticket prices are $38, all seats reserved. For groups of 15 or more, tickets are $32.
To purchase tickets, or for more information, call (402) 553-0800, or visit the box office located at the southeast corner of the Omaha Community Playhouse at 6915 Cass St. or click here.
Article by Deborah Trecek
All pictures courtesy of the Omaha Community Playhouse: 2002 production of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story