Taking a step back to the 60s
By Andrew Clarke, Arts EditorThe glitz and glamour of the girl groups of the 1960s is being recreated at the Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, as they stage an epic production of Leader of the Pack - a celebration of the work of songwriter Ellie Greenwich and her collaboration with renegade producer Phil Spector.
By Andrew Clarke, Arts Editor
The glitz and glamour of the girl groups of the 1960s is being recreated at the Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, as they stage an epic production of Leader of the Pack - a celebration of the work of songwriter Ellie Greenwich and her collaboration with renegade producer Phil Spector.
The cast of the new Wolsey production are stepping back in time by donning the bouffant wigs and tight white dresses which defined the era and they also sampled a taste of real stardom when a luxury stretch limo arrived to take them to the stage door.
Leader of the Pack, co-written by the new Wolsey's artistic director, Peter Rowe, tells the story of one of the forgotten heroines of the music industry.
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Sarah Holmes, the new Wolsey's chief executive, said: “Ellie Greenwich is not well known but her music is, and we hope to have turned her into a household name by the end of the run.”
The show has been named after one of Ellie's greatest hits and she worked closely with all of the leading girl groups of the 1960s including Tina Turner, The Ronettes, The Crystals and the Shangri-Las.
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She also formed a close working relationship with legendary Wall-of-Sound producer Phil Spector.
Matt Dineen, who plays the producer in the show, said that although this was a musical stuffed full of catchy tunes, there was also a touching drama which is played out alongside the hits.
“I think this is why the show is such a blast to do. You have the songs, which you all know, and they are incredibly catchy and then there are some emotional scenes, very dramatic scenes which give the play some real substance.
“It is a very insightful look into the world of pop music in the 1960s. It's a time of great innovation, wonderful performers, great writers but there is also a more dangerous, darker side - which my character provides.”
The show is such fun that when Nicola Dawn was approached to recreate the role of Ellie she jumped at it. “I played Ellie a couple of years ago and I wanted to do the tour but unfortunately I was already committed to another contract, so I couldn't do it. So when this came along it was like being given a second chance.
“It's a great part in a great show and it's just so much fun, that I have really enjoyed coming back and doing it again. It's been great and you get something more out of it each time you play it.”
The real-life Ellie Greenwich was born in Brooklyn and was one of the major influences of 60's rock music.
She was writing songs by 13 and formed her first girl group, The Jivettes, with two high school friends. But it wasn't until she went to college that her career really started to take off.
She met and married Jeff Barry and the pair went on to become co-writers of some of the most memorable classic pop/rock hits.
In 1962, shortly after her college graduation and a three and a half week stint as a high school English teacher, Ellie began working in The Brill Building, the offices of hot songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller - authors of such Elvis classics as Hound Dog and Jailhouse Rock.
Joining forces with legendary producer Phil Spector, a string of legendary hits were created, including: Be My Baby, Da Doo Ron Ron, And Then He Kissed Me, Chapel Of Love and River Deep, Mountain High.
With Jeff Barry, this trend continued with number one smashes, such as Hanky Panky, Do Wah Diddy and the epic Leader Of The Pack, co-written with Shadow Morton.
Greenwich was also one of New York's top demo/session singers and vocal arrangers, working with artists ranging from Dusty Springfield and Lesley Gore to Ella Fitzgerald, Bobby Darin and Frank Sinatra. One of her most exciting sessions was re-arranging the background vocals on Aretha Franklin's Chain Of Fools and working with Cissy Houston and the Sweet Inspirations.
During one of her many demo sessions, Greenwich also discovered Neil Diamond and went on to co-produce all his early hits such as Cherry, Cherry and Kentucky Woman.
Leader of the Pack brings together several veterans of the Wolsey's critically acclaimed and highly popular pantomimes including Ally Holmes who was in Aladdin, musical director Greg Palmer and choreographer Fran Jaynes.
The show is the new Wolsey's big Spring production running from Thursday February 27 to March 15 and then it will return after a short tour for a second run from April 8-19.
Tickets can be booked on 01473 295900 or www.wolseytheatre.co.uk