Dead Ringer in Surrey

Via Surrey Now:  One dead ringer for several dead singers

On stage at Surrey Arts Centre; Zachary Stevenson best known for becoming Buddy Holly in Arts Club’s hit musical about doomed rocker

By Adrian Chamberlain, Surrey Now

The Buddy Holly Story. Shot by Tim Matheson

Zachary Stevenson plugs in again for Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, on stage at Surrey Arts Centre until Oct. 28.

Need help bringing a dead singing star to life?

Call Zachary Stevenson.

The actor-singer once starred in a show about protest singer Phil Ochs. He’s also portrayed country icon Hank Williams on stage.

But Stevenson is best known for becoming Buddy Holly.

“I’ve cornered the market as an actor, playing singers who have untimely deaths who wrote songs and played guitar,” said Stevenson with a smile.

For an interview, Stevenson wore the same prescription horn-rims he sports in Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, which on Tuesday (Oct. 11) opened a two-week run at Surrey Arts Centre’s main stage.

Stevenson, who ordinarily plays acoustic guitar, straps on an electric to play the rocker who wrote “Peggy Sue” and “That’ll Be the Day.” His uncanny imitation and persona of the doomed rocker landed him the plum role with the Arts Club Theatre Company production.

“I initially was approached to perform in the full musical in Ontario,” said the 29-year-old. “I researched him, the era and his music.”

Stevenson has spent hours pouring over the Internet, reading about the legendary singer and hearing his music.

“I was very meticulous in the smallest of details about Buddy Holly because I wanted to capture his essence,” he said.

“As far as looking like him, I wear glasses and have curly hair myself, so that helps.”

Last year, Stevenson was chosen as one of the Vancouver Sun’s “10 Rising Talents to Watch for in the Arts.” According to the Sun’s arts critic, Peter Birnie, the young singer has: ” … mastered a mimicry of some interesting singers, and it’s paid off.”

Birnie also went on to say this about his role in Buddy: “Zachary Stevenson nails the rock ‘n’ roll legend in a full-throttle tribute that fires on all cylinders.”

After performing Holly on stage in a half-dozen productions across Canada, the lanky actor/singer has mastered Holly’s vocal inflections.

“I really trained on his accent marks in the lyrics so I could get all the hiccups down-pat before the first show,” he added. “I polish my performance every time and it feels more and more natural. Now, I can step on stage and be Buddy.”

He went on to add that: “Although Buddy’s songs were simple, he didn’t follow the typical rock formula of the times. His music is timeless because of that rock ‘n’ roll spirit he portrayed. He had a lot of energy on stage.”

Stevenson said he never set out to mimic deceased music legends. While at the University of Victoria studying for a theatre degree, the budding performer developed a one-man show about Phil Ochs, an obscure American protest singer who committed suicide in 1976 at the age of 35.

Stevenson spent endless hours listening to Ochs albums in his father’s record collection.

“I’d sit in my house in Parksville and play the record and play along, trying to figure out his picking pattern,” he said.

Meanwhile, Stevenson said the hits that made Buddy Holly a household name get everyone in the audience up on their feet and dancing.

“Everybody also starts singing,” he said. “It is so much fun for me to see the audience get into the music as much as I do.

“Some of the younger audience has told me it’s the closest they’ll get to seeing Buddy Holly perform, and the older crowd tell me they get energized and they tell me they have great memories of that era.? As long as people keep wanting the music, I’ll keep performing it.”

Stevenson has found success playing his own music as well, with folk-pop duo The Human Statues. “I guess you can describe our music as influenced primarily by early pop like The Beatles, but with a modern twist,” he said. “We are often compared to the Barenaked Ladies … but we aren’t a novelty act.”

As for playing another deceased music legend, well, Stevenson certainly isn’t averse to the idea.

“People say ‘who’s next?’ And I say I don’t know. Jimi Hendrix? I don’t know if I can pull that one off.”

with file from Richmond News

TICKET INFO:

‘BUDDY’ AT SURREY ARTS CENTRE Tickets range from $29 to $48 for Buddy:

The Buddy Holly Story at Surrey Arts Centre’s main stage, from Oct. 11-28 (select dates). For show and ticket info, call 604-501-5566 or visit www.surrey.ca/arts.
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