‘Leader of the Pack’ ready to set toes tapping Downriver

Photo by Sue Suchyta. Brianne Rainey (left), Alex Rosen (third from left), Dinah Tutein, Kayla Nagy and Sarah Cagle offer a sneak preview of “Leader of the Pack” during Wyandotte's Fourth of July parade.

Photo by Sue Suchyta. Brianne Rainey (left), Alex Rosen (third from left), Dinah Tutein, Kayla Nagy and Sarah Cagle offer a sneak preview of “Leader of the Pack” during Wyandotte’s Fourth of July parade.

By Sue Suchyta

Upbeat, entertaining and fun are the types of summer shows that actors love to do and audiences adore, and “Leader of the Pack,” the Ellie Greenwich musical, is no exception.

The juke box musical celebrates the life and times of Greenwich, recalling her life’s highs and lows through her original doo-wop songs, which hit the top of the pop charts in the early to mid-1960s.

The show runs 7:30 p.m. July 29 and 30, and Aug. 5 and 6, and 3 p.m. July 31 and Aug.7 at the Catherine A. Daly Theatre on the Avenue, 2656 Biddle in Wyandotte.

Tickets are $16, with a $3 discount for students and seniors. To order, call 734-407-7020, or go to downriveractorsguild.net.

Kyle Harwood is the vocal director, with Kayla Aue as choreographer and Lucinda Chavez directing.

Chavez said the show will have audiences leaving the theater singing and humming the musical’s tunes.

“In addition to the high energy songs that all ages will know or recognize, there are moments that spark other emotions as well, such as sadness or angst,” Chavez said. “It’s not your normal musical revue. It’s a story about real people who had their ups and downs like everyone else.”

Chavez said the show appeals to audiences of all ages, not just those who grew up with the music.

“The music of the early ’60s was so catchy that many of the songs were used in commercials and movie soundtracks,” she said. “So even the younger generation recognizes it. This is very much a family show that will keep all ages engaged.”

She said while the music speaks for itself, the vocals and dance are a key element of the show.

“I love the harmonies and strong vocal solos and high energy of most of the songs,” Chavez said, “The audience will be amazed at the level of talent in the show.”

Josh Lisiecki, who plays Jeff Barry, Ellie’s husband and songwriting partner, said he grew up listening to the music on an oldies station.
“This is the music that I used to sing in the car with my mom and dad,” he said. “When I heard the song track for the show I got very excited, because these were songs that I knew very well already and that I really enjoyed.”

Kayla Nagy, who plays Annie Golden, said Greenwich’s songs have retained their popularity because people enjoy listening to them without needing to find a deeper meaning.

“It’s something that can be fun,” Nagy said. “Some of it is repetitive – catchy repetitive, not annoying – so I think people just resonate with it and really like how it makes them feel.”

She said the songs definitely get stuck in one’s head. Her favorites include “River Deep, Mountain High” and the title song “Leader of the Pack.”

Nagy said it is a very high energy show.

“Most of it is singing and dancing, so you can get into it really easily instead of waiting scene after scene,” she said. “Sometimes that can get boring, but this show is not like that at all.

“It moves very quickly, and even though it is heavily packed with music, it’s not going to be something where you are just sitting and waiting for the next song to come, because it is very fast-paced.”

Meg Berger, who plays Rosie, Ellie’s mother, at the beginning of the show, and older Ellie at the end, said she likes the music and more importantly, a show that features a strong female cast.

“It’s all these songs that we all recognize and we all love,” she said. “This is the story of the woman who wrote them, so it’s the great story behind all that great music.”

Berger said “Chapel of Love” and “Da Do Ron Ron” are her favorite songs in the show, which has heart and is a tribute to Ellie.

“It shows clearly all the good that she did, and it’s real, so it shows the down sides to what she went through,” Berger said. “It’s a very honest portrayal.”

Others in the cast includes Mishana Green as Darlene Love, Ashley Gatesy as young Ellie Greenwich, David McDonald as Gus Sharkey, Jamie Krause as Patti and Jenna Gadille as Jasmine.

Kelly Klug plays Barbara, with Kayla Chavez as Shelby, Emily Braun as Mickey, Grace Ray as Jodi, and Jessalyn Sturm and Brianne Rainey as featured dancers.

Dinah Tutein plays Shirley, with Alexandria Reeves as Zora, Sarah Cagle as Betty, Alex Rosen as Christopher and Nathan Vasquez as Keith.

Matt Mayes plays Joey and a bartender, with Austin Charlebois as Peter, Josh Primeau as Lon and Jacob Partrich as Danny.

“The music is so catchy and fun, if they don’t know it, they will when they leave,” Lucinda Chavez said. “They will have such a good time they will want to bring friends back to see it again.”


The Players Guild of Dearborn holds auditions for the musical “Two by Two” July 18 and 19, with registration beginning at 6:30 p.m. and auditions beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the theater, 21730 Madison in Dearborn.

The show, with music by Richard Rodgers, book by Peter Stone and lyrics by Martin Charnin, runs 8 p.m. Sept. 16, 17, 23, 24, 30 and Oct. 1, and 2:30 p.m. Sept. 18, 25 and Oct. 2.

When Noah, warned by God, begins to build an ark to survive a flood, even his family is skeptical until animals start to appear en masse.

Downloadable audition forms and conflict calendars are available at playersguildofdearborn.org.

Mary Jane Towne will direct, with musical direction by Richard Alder Jr.

Roles include Noah (tenor), Esther, his wife (mezzo soprano), their sons Shem and Ham (baritones) and Japheth (tenor), and daughter-in-laws Leah (alto), Rachel (soprano) and Goldie (high soprano).