BROADWAY — Kick up your shoes and hang loose because the Schultz Theatre is sharing the jazzed life of Ellie Greenwich in a groovy musical performance this weekend.
“Leader of the Pack” is a musical retrospective following the life of Greenwich, a pop singer, songwriter and producer whose work topped the charts in the 1960s.
For the first time in Schultz history, the musical will be supported by a band of local musicians called One Rocking Band to amplify the doo-wop that dominated the scene.
Alissa Romano, director of the show, developed her theater career on Northern city stages and now brings the zest from her New Jersey hometown to Broadway.
“I love the musical numbers. I’m a Broadway baby,” Romano said. “I love bringing the New York and New Jersey flavor to Virginia.”
Rebecca Seal, who plays Greenwich, said the sound and energy from the performance are unmatched, and the show’s basis in reality rather than fiction is the cherry on top.
“She was a pioneer of the time writing these famous songs,” Seal said. “There’s been a big shift … in how we’ve had to fight as women to find your place and to get recognition.”
Greenwich’s writing was already topping charts when she met her music partner Jeff Barry. Together, the two domineered the industry, producing songs for Phil Spector.
Austin Shifflett, who plays Barry, said he identifies as a book nerd who does not dance — a complete opposite of Barry, an overtly masculine characters “dripping in swagger” — but he jumped at the role anyway because he adores the decade’s music.
“I think that period in the ’60s right before the Beatles came and changed everything was a really fun and creative time. It was just about having a good time and making people feel good,” Shifflett said.
Life during the 1960-80s was colorful, loud and all about breaking barriers, but outside the psychedelic bubble of lava lamps and peace signs was also a darker dichotomy. Misty Newman, who plays Darlene Love, said she is more sensitive to the difficulties of the decades as she portrays the popular black artist who sang some of Greenwich’s songs, including “Wait ‘Til My Bobby Gets Home” and “A Fine Fine Boy.”
“The sixties were a turbulent time, and I don’t want to gloss over that, but I hope that this brings back some light,” Newman said. “I try to think of the confidence and strength she would’ve had to be in the limelight in that time.”
“Leader of the Pack” will be on the J. Frank Hillyard Auditorium stage this weekend and the following. Friday and Saturday shows start at 7 p.m. and Sunday’s shows begin at 3 p.m.
Admission is $15 for adults, $13 for students and seniors, and tickets can be ordered online up to an hour before showtime or at the door. Sensory-sensitive audiences should be aware that there are strobe lights and a fog machine that will be active during parts of the production.