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SPOTLIGHT: Keaton Ditchfield embraces his BUDDY HOLLY show legacy

Barbara Loots


The Pieter Toerien Productions presented jukebox musical, BUDDY - THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY, directed by Nick Winston will be onstage at the Artscape Theatre from 28 March 2023. As the excitement builds to the opening of this much anticipated show, we thought we’d have a chat with cast member, Keaton Ditchfield. He plays The Big Bopper in the upcoming show, but also has a special connection with the 1993 staging of THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY that saw Craig Urbani in the role of the legendary Buddy Holly.

That sad day in February 1959 also saw other talents lost in that fateful Iowa plane crash, one being that of the law-student turned disc jockey and musician, Jiles Perry Richardson Jr, better known as The Big Bopper. That's the 'Chantily Lace' inspired shoes Ditchfield steps into in the latest production. He shares that he did not initially set out to play The Big Bopper. He just wanted to be part of the show regardless of the role, and this choice seemed to be the best fit:

“I literally auditioned for The Big Bopper because he is one of the few characters who doesn’t need to play an instrument. It was only after I got the role that I found out that I would also have to play a double bass as a Hayrider!”

So, in preparing for the show, Ditchfield had to learn how to play and will “be playing double bass for the first time live for an audience at the first show". This is clear indication of his commitment to his craft, as well as his love for the Buddy Holly show experience. We're willing to bet that as he plays the first few notes live, he'll be smiling just as big as his dad did all those years ago.

Having a diverse entertainment career, including on-screen acting and having built up a company that sees him experiencing things from the other side of the lens, Ditchfield understands that one can look at a performance challenge from different perspectives: so he definitely isn’t afraid to tackle the unexpected. He elaborates that his film acting has actually made him understand how to help a technical crew by just making subtle adjustments to his on-set performances to ultimately serve the end product better. Theatre, he admits, is a bit of a unique art form though, and he keeps that in mind when stepping onto the stage. In a theatrical role he follows the cues given by those visionaries steering the creative process. As such, he understands the value of having a great director to set the pace and approach of a show.

BUDDY - THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY is directed by internationally renowned director and choreographer, Nick Winston (known for the West End hit Bonnie & Clyde, as well as the world tour of We Will Rock You). Ditchfield has great respect and appreciation for Winston's approach to the show:

“Nick is really great to work with. He is very collaborative, positive, creative and knows how to tell a story. THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY was written a long time ago and was designed for the 90s and it’s Nick's job to bring it into 2023. I think he is really doing an amazing job! He is adding things and cutting things and working this show into something that is really going to be magic.”

In addition to having a great director, Ditchfield also regards himself very lucky to be part of an amazing “cast and crew who are all legends… all awesome people and talented beyond belief”.

Collectively they're the reason he loves every moment he gets to be part of rehearsals and looks forward to stepping onto the stage with, and because of, them.

Apart from the fact that he gets to play The Big Bopper, Ditchfield is also excited to be using his camera skills in creating content for the show. He finds striking a balance between those two aspects of his Buddy Holly experience “quite a fun and a unique challenge”.

The power of the Buddy Holly story in its various manifestations has impacted every aspect of his life, yet he shares that he would have been excited to see this specific show, even if he wasn’t a part of it:

“THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY is one of my favourites. There is a reason why some people went back to watch the show 10 times during the 1993 run. Not many shows get you going as much as Buddy does, particularly during the end concert section of the show. It just pumps! The audience is literally going to be singing the songs and bopping their knees for weeks after they see it. Oh, and between me and you, Jethro Tait as Buddy is going to blow your socks off!”

The Pieter Toerien Productions presented BUDDY - THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY will be onstage at the Artscape Theatre from 28 March to 16 April 2023. Tickets are available online through Webtickets.


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