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BUDDY'S BACK - Buddy Holly, played here by Van Zeiler, will be recalled in 'The Buddy Holly Story' April 25-30 at the Providence Performing Arts Center.
At 30, Travis Turpin dreams of the day he'll have the opportunity to play the demanding musical roles, like that of Jabert in Les Miz, or the Beast in Beauty and the Beast. But for now, Turpin is content - more than content, maybe joyous - to be playing the Big Bopper in the Buddy Holly Story, a classic rock 'n' roll show. "It's probably the most fun I've had so far" said Turpin, who has the featured role in the Buddy Holly Story which comes to the Providence Performing Arts Center, April 25 through 30.
"I've had a lot of fun with this show," he said. "It's a rock 'n' roll show." But he concedes that his appreciation for "harder music" leaves him wanting to "push yourself vocally."
And Turpin concedes this may not be the most demanding of parts, appearing for a few minutes in the beginning of the show, then waiting well over an hour to appear again, culminating in the recreation of Buddy Holly's last concert with Richie Vallens, The Big Bopper and Dion in Clear Lake, Iowa on Feb. 2, 1959.
Turpin's biography is probably classic case for an actor in search of that major role. His family had a dance band, he said, and he was always playing instruments. At the University of Nebraska he was a speech communications major, and after graduation found himself singing country music at an amusement park in San Antonio, Texas.
From the amusement park he went on the ultimate water ride - a cruise ship, where it was everything from Broadway to classical to jazz.
Then it was New York and the regional theater in St. Louis, dinner theater in Ohio, and an original piece in North Carolina.
When he saw the ad for the Buddy Holly Story he thought he would audition as an instrumentalist. Instead it was for the Big Bopper, playing some instruments and singing Chantilly Lace, just like his father did in the family band.
"I lucked out and got the part, and so far we're having a blast," Turpin said. They've been to 14 cities - from Boston to Los Angeles - in the tour's first five weeks. The show will run until August and then possibly renew.
Meanwhile, he's learned a lot about the Big Bopper, a disc jockey and songwriter from Texas who first won national acclaim when he did a three-day non stop stint on the air. "He was just kind of a character, an entertainer, a showman.
"This role - Chantilly Lace isn't really a song. It's really kind of speaking and being goofy on stage. Evita and My Fair Lady (both are shows in which he performed) were a little more demanding vocally," he said.
As for the show itself, the Buddy Holly Story is a musical based on Buddy Holly's rise from a country singer in Lubbock, Texas to his debut with the Crickets as the first white act at Harlem's Apollo Theatre, his two years of fame as a rock n' roll star, and tragic death.