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UNO student takes over Buddy Holly role so Billy McGuigan can work behind the scenes

UNO student takes over Buddy Holly role so Billy McGuigan can work behind the scenes

The historic concert venue on 13th street in Omaha will undergo renovations and a name change.

The torch is being passed.

Musician and actor Billy McGuigan’s production company is producing “Buddy — The Buddy Holly Story” this summer, and McGuigan’s not playing the title role he has played many times before.

Instead, University of Nebraska at Omaha student Jesse White is taking over as Holly in the Rave On Productions show, which will be onstage Friday through Aug. 1 at a different location each night.

“It has been a career goal of mine to produce and direct this show,” McGuigan said. ”I waited until I could find the perfect person to take on the role of Buddy because it’s very personal to me. As soon as I met Jesse White, I knew he was the guy. He was my Buddy.”

White and McGuigan became acquainted during “Don’t Stop Me Now,” a McGuigan-produced outdoor show at the Omaha Community Playhouse last summer.

He played Hedwig in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” the first musical produced by Rave On after McGuigan created an arts academy and announced the Omaha Series, a season’s worth of stage shows.

After that, White was all in. The opportunity to work with Rave On again prompted him to accept the Holly role.

He was familiar with the history of the show in the area. McGuigan originated the role in “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story” at the Playhouse and reprised it numerous times, both here and on the road.

“I knew the legacy behind this role and knew it was something I wanted to tackle,” White said.

The musical, by Alan Janes, details how Holly started in country music, his disdain for the genre and how he yearned to switch to rock ‘n’ roll, his relationship with his wife and his untimely demise, “all in 90 minutes,” White said.

The new Buddy was proficient on acoustic guitar but received a monthlong course in Holly’s style at Rave On.

“They gave me lessons for his licks and riffs,” he said. “I was building my guitar chops. If I’m not at work or at school, I’m practicing Buddy Holly guitar.”

He said McGuigan was a big help, teaching him tricks on the guitar to look good “without having to do all that much.”

Omahans might be a tougher audience than some, given how much local folks know about Holly, not only from McGuigan’s performances but also from the legend surrounding the rocker’s 1959 death in a northwest Iowa plane crash.

Playing such an icon, White said, is a little daunting.

“You’re trying to do an impersonation and be respectful,” he said. “I want to be sure I am doing him justice.”

The show, directed by Kimberly Faith Hickman and McGuigan, is at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 7 p.m. Aug. 1. All performances are outdoors: Friday’s is at SumTur Amphitheater at 11691 S. 108th St. in Papillion; Saturday’s is at Soaring Wings Vineyard in Springfield, Nebraska; and Sunday’s is at Davies Amphitheater in Glenwood, Iowa.

Tickets are $35 and are available at

Nebraska State Fair tickets are now on sale


The Nebraska State Fair, scaled down in 2020, is retuning to its usual form this year. Tickets are available online and at the fairgrounds office in Grand Island. 

It’s almost time for cotton candy, grandstand shows, livestock exhibitions and the carnival.

That means that tickets for the Nebraska State Fair are now available at and the box office in the Nebraska Building at the fairgrounds at 501 E. Fonner Park Road in Grand Island.

The $10 Hometown Pass will be sold through Aug. 26. It includes five entrance passes and can be broken up between days or used by five people on a single day.

At only $2 for each admission, the pass provides a 70% savings on regular gate admission, which is $12 a person per day.

They’re available online or at any Home Federal Bank location.

Early carnival tickets with unlimited rides are discounted to $20 if you buy them before Aug. 1.

After that, the carnival costs $30 Monday through Thursday and $35 Friday through Sunday. Prices don’t include gate admission.

For more information on prices and events, see the fair website.

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Betsie covers a little bit of everything for The World-Herald's Living section, including theater, religion and anything else that might need attention. Phone: 402-444-1267.

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