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‘Buddy Holly’ comes to life at 6th Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa

If You Go

What: “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story”

When: Jan. 10 through Feb. 16. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, and a 7:30 p.m. performance on Thursday, Jan. 23

Where: 6th Street Playhouse, 52 W. Sixth St., Santa Rosa

Admission: $35-$48

Information: 707-523-4185; 6thstreetplayhouse.com

The Buddy Holly story comes with a tragic finale. At 22, the rock ‘n’ roll star died with Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson, Jr., known as the “The Big Bopper,” in a plane crash near Mason City, Iowa, on Feb. 3, 1959. Don McLean immortalized the accident as “The Day the Music Died” in his 1971 song “American Pie.”

Despite the unhappy ending, the saga of Holly’s rise to fame has become a modern legend, inspiring the 1978 film “The Buddy Holly Story,” starring Gary Busey, and the stage musical “Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story,” which premiered in London in 1989 and ran for 12 years.

The allure of the story has not worn off, despite the passage of decades. On Friday, the 6th Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa opens with a new production of “Buddy.”

“Buddy is a fascinating figure in popular music, partly because of his untimely death,” said Kyle Jurassic, who will star in the local production and has portrayed the singer in other presentations of the play around the United States. “His death is handled in a very good way in this show. We give it the weight it deserves, but we don’t dwell on it. We go past that and finish with rock ‘n’ roll.”

Although Jurassic dons Holly’s trademark horn-rimmed glasses for the role, he doesn’t consider his portrayal of the Texas rocker mere imitation.

“I try not to see other people’s take on Buddy. I don’t want to do an impersonation of an impersonation,” the actor said in a recent interview.

“His mannerisms and vocal inflections influence my performance. I definitely feel Buddy creeping into my own playing,” he added. “After a performance, I am still coming in and out of his voice. That’s why I have a Southern accent right now.”

The accent comes from Buddy, not the actor who plays him. Jurassic grew up in Michigan, where he studied music. He also performed on the national tour of the 1980s-style jukebox musical “Rock of Ages,” which the actor considers an indirect descendent of “Buddy.”

“I wouldn’t be remiss in crediting the jukebox musical phenomenon to “The Buddy Holly Story,” Jurassic observed.

The show features more than 20 Buddy Holly tunes, including his hits “That’ll Be the Day,” “Peggy Sue” and “Oh, Boy.”

“There are some adaptations in the way the songs are arranged,” Jurassic said. “We shorten some of the songs or change the order of the verses. The version we do of ‘Peggy Sue Got Married’ isn’t the one on the record. It’s a version Buddy did with friends in a live performance.”

Beyond just learning the script, Jurassic has done his research on Buddy Holly.

“I listen to his songs over and over again, much to the dismay of my wife when we’re on the road together,” he said.

You can reach staff writer Dan Taylor at 707-521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @danarts.

If You Go

What: “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story”

When: Jan. 10 through Feb. 16. Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, and a 7:30 p.m. performance on Thursday, Jan. 23

Where: 6th Street Playhouse, 52 W. Sixth St., Santa Rosa

Admission: $35-$48

Information: 707-523-4185; 6thstreetplayhouse.com

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