Leader of the Pack – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

From the time Ellie Greenwich was a teenager, learning to play the accordion, she knew her destiny was to be a singer/songwriter. Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, she acknowledged her mother’s advice to become a teacher, but she knew in her heart that music was her future. Luckily for the world she was right in her prediction, and, even luckier for you, Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury is bringing her story to the stage, thanks to the Stage Seven Community Theatre Production weekends until Sunday, January 19.

With a bundle of determination and talent, Brittany Mulcahy’s Ellie sets a goal of musical magic and then makes it happen. While listening to her cautious mom advise her to get a college degree, she nevertheless creates a three girl singing group, The Jivettes, and works hard to achieve her dreams, becoming a singer, songwriter and recording producer from the 1960’s to the early 2000’s.

Starting at the famous site for music magic the Brill Building, she fought her way to the top, getting credit for discovering Neil Diamond along the way. In the musical “Leader of the Pack” with book by Anne Beatts, music and lyrics by Ellie Greenwich and Friends, with additional material by Jack Heifner, based on the original play by Melanie Mintz, we learn of her trials and triumphs.

With Samantha Rae Bass playing Darlene Love as narrator and principal singer, we hear such great tunes as “Wait ‘Til My Bobby Gets Home,” Today I Met the Boy I’m Gonna Marry,” “Not Too Young to Get Married,” “Christmas-Baby Please Come Home,” and “River Deep Mountain High.” Other great tunes are presented by Zani N. Scott as Annie Golden, her writing partner and husband Jeff Barry played by Rob Girardin and her music producer Rodney K.’s Gus Sharkey. Some snazzy choreography is staged by Zachary Geiger, Lucia Greene, Jewell Hearon, Loren Pelosi, Alex Polzun and Alexa Santos. Foster Evans Reese directs this bopping beauty on a record hop set designed by Katrina Paul.

Ellie Greenwich is credited with having a major influence on 1960’s rock and roll, having seventeen Billboard Hot 100 Hits in 1964 alone, earning 25 gold and platinum records and being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

For tickets ($28, four pack $90), call Seven Angels Theatre, 1 Plank Road, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at sevenangelstheatre.org. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. with an extra matinee Saturday, January 18 at 2 p.m.

For a girl who just wanted to hear her songs on the radio and be on American Bandstand, Ellie Greenwich achieved levels of success even she could never have anticipated. Come groove to “Da Doo Ron Ron” and “Do Wah Diddy Diddy.”