You’ll fall too for “Leader of the Pack” when interACT Theatre Productions performs a greatest-hits list of 1960s teenage pop songs in the Ellie Greenwich-inspired musical, which opened last weekend at The Baird Theatre on Three in South Orange.
Sung by the artists who helped these songs soar to the top of the charts, the show features the magical voices of Nadiya Braham as Darlene Love and Kayla Stewart as Young Darlene, and other female pop singers of the ‘60s.
Songwriter Ellie Greenwich, who with Jeff Barry was among the most successful songwriters, provides the inspiration for the story and the music. In 1964 alone, this husband-and-wife team saw 17 of their compositions make the pop charts.
The show continues for two more weekends, 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, June 5, June 6, June 12, and June 13; with Sunday performances at 4 p.m. on June 7, and June 14.
“Ellie is incredibly talented and absolutely full of energy, passion, drive, and optimism. However, all this passion and drive also manifests itself as volatility as her world starts to unravel,” says Chelsea Varga, the actress who plays Young Ellie Greenwich in interACT’s high-energy production. She’s joined by Melody Lieberman and Julie Funesti, who play the role during the different phases of Greenwich’s career.
Greenwich and Barry (played by Joshua Williams) had five Number One hits: “Chapel of Love,”,“ Do Wah Diddy Diddy,” “Leader of the Pack,” “Hanky Panky,” and “Da Doo Ron Ron.”
The music was one of Ellie Greenwich’s two great loves in her life, Varga explains. Her downfall comes in her inability to balance her love for one without neglecting the other.
“While I was initially drawn to this show because of the music, the experience of exploring this character has entirely changed my focus and given new meaning to songs I thought I knew,” said Varga, a middle school special ed teacher, voice coach and choreographer.
“I’m truly excited to be portraying such a fascinating character and I hope the audience enjoys seeing her story unfold,” she said.
Nick Clarey directs for interACT with music direction by Holland Jancaitis.
Performers include SOMA locals Elena Stremlin, Laura Kuperman Braden, Noelle Heriveaux, Sophia Heriveaux, Sam Mullaney, and David Wren-Hardin. Tasha R. Williams-Arroyo, who will lead interACT’s summer’s camp for young actors, also performs.
Joanna Haupt, Jessica Kaiser, Melody Lieberman, Ian MacDonald, John M. Olsen, Lucas Sverdlen, and Samantha Pearl Tropper are featured. The production is brought in part through the generosity of Dawilla Madsen.
interACT is committed to building strong ties within the community by producing thought-provoking plays and musicals that challenge stereotypes and prejudices.
Tickets are $20 online for adults; $17 for students/seniors. All tickets at the door will be $25. Purchase tickets at https://interactproductions.tix.com/