by Cori Hilsgen
“Teen Idol: The Bobby Vee Story,” a musical about the life of Bobby Vee, has returned now through Dec. 16 at the History Theatre in St. Paul.
The musical, which premiered in Ocober. 2016, was written by Bob Beverage in collaboration with Vee’s sons, Jeff and Tommy Vee, and is directed by Ron Peluso. George Maurer provided musical direction and arrangements for the production.
The production follows the life of 15-year-old Bobby Velline, who charmed audiences at the Winter Dance Party in Moorhead Feb. 3, 1959, when local talent was asked to fill in after famed rock ‘n’ rollers Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper were tragically killed that same day in a plane crash in Iowa, bound for Moorhead.
Vee soon became a teen idol, appearing on “American Bandstand” with Dick Clark, as well as an international star, entertaining audiences with a series of Top 40 hits.
From 1959-1970, he produced 38 Top 100 hits, including six gold records.
From his first hit single “Suzie Baby,” in Minneapolis, Vee’s musical journey included pop stars such as Little Anthony and The Imperials, Ronnie and The Ronnettes, Dion and Del Shannon.
In addition to honoring other musical performers, the musical is also a story about the love between Vee and his wife, Karen.
Tyler Michaels, who stars as Bobby Vee in the musical, commented on his role.
“Most central to Bobby was his kind and whole-hearted spirit,” he said. “In nearly every moment of his life he took time to really be with people – his family, his friends, his fans – and always looked for the good in them. Playing him onstage has really instilled that same value in me.”
Michaels said he would like to think he is a very small part of continuing the legacy of Vee’s music, his story and his spirit.
“His music has (had) such an amazing effect on the world, but so many people in my generation have never heard of Bobby,” Michaels said. “It was, is, so influential and universal that (I) think it should be shared with as many audiences as possible.”
Michaels said he was thrilled to be returning to the role, which is easily one of his favorite roles he’s played in the past few years.
Audiences will see some new surprises, such as new scenes and songs, in performances this time.
He added after seeing the show, he hopes the message people will take away from it is to find your dream and follow it. Also, no matter how much success you might have in your life, how much fame and fortune, if you don’t have family and dear friends to share your life with, it will all mean nothing.
When the musical first premiered in 2016, the Vee family had just lived the final scenes of the play in their own lives.
“We had recently lost our mother and our father was slipping away by the day,” said Jeff and Tommy Vee in a press release. “It was emotional and surreal to see our story suddenly on a stage played by actors, as if in a parallel universe.”
At the time, they said they wanted to seize an opportunity with the History Theatre to tell what they thought was a sweet and unique story, to pay tribute to their parents and to preserve a great legacy.
“We, of course, grew up on dad’s music – it was the soundtrack of our lives,” they said. “We were fortunate to sit along many stages and (television) tapings as kids and eventually travel the world performing alongside him for over 25 years.”
They said Vee was an internationally known “Teen Idol,” a singer, pop star, writer, musician, but to them, he was much more important than that, as he was an amazing father and grandfather, the leader of the band and their best friend.
“Our dad never forgot where he came from, or the people along the way,” Jeff and Tommy Vee said. “He brought joy to all he encountered on and off the stage by simply sharing music, stories and memories.”
The two said it has been a pleasure to work with and become friends with Peluso, Beverage, Michaels, Maurer, Jan Puffer (choreography) and the rest of the amazing cast, crew and staff at the History Theatre.
The Killer Vees, which includes Jeff Vee, Tommy Vee, nephew Matt Vee and grandson Bennett Vee, will also be performing concert shows of Bobby Vee’s music at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 30, and Thursday, Dec. 31, at the History Theatre.
To purchase tickets or for more information, visit historytheatre.com or call 651-292-4320.
The History Theatre is at 30 10th St. E.,, St. Paul.
Author: Cori Hilsgen
Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people’s stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.