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On Stage Review

GHS girls shine in Leader of the Pack

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Surrounded by a supporting chorus, Andrea Reyes (center) sings "Leader of the Pack.

GRANDVIEW - It was all about girl power Friday night as audiences were treated to Grandview High School's production of Leader of the Pack, a musical that tells of the story of legendary songwriter and music producer Ellie Greenwich.

While the voices that tackled Greenwich's legendary songs last Friday aren't as strong or powerful as audiences are use to, the performances were enjoyable and well constructed.

Some of the familiar songs performed in Leader of the Pack include "Be My Baby," "Chapel of Love," "Hanky Panky" and "River Deep, Mountain High," not to mention "Leader of the Pack."

The role of Ellie Greenwich was taken on by two young ladies. Cassandra Ambriz started the role as young Ellie but Alice Herrera quickly took over as the adult Ellie Greenwich.

There is a part of me that doesn't understand why the play calls for two separate girls to play the role of Ellie, but both Grandview ladies did an exceptional job and I cannot regret having the opportunity to see them both perform.

Much of the play rested on Herrera's shoulders, where she had to not only perform several musical numbers, but portray some of Greenwich's real life highs and lows - a challenge Herrera excelled in.

Surrounding the Greenwich actresses was an entire cast of energetic actors and actresses, but there is no doubt that this play is designed to highlight the ladies. Few of the performances were done by the gentlemen and only one, "Do Wah Diddy" performed well by Milagro Castilleja, was a solo.

Despite this female presence, the evening's best musical number, in my opinion, was "Hanky Panky." This musical number, performed by the play's male cast, was not only sung well, but the choreography was entertaining and fun.

Many of the young ladies found themselves center stage as they tackled Greenwich's music, but the plays' standout singer, for me, was Andrea Reyes, who portrayed real life singer Annie Golden.

Golden played herself in the original production of Leader of the Pack on Broadway, but the role does not require any real acting. The play does not even offer any insight into Golden's life or her connection to Greenwich, so Reyes did little more than step on stage and sing...but her singing was some of the best of the night. It may not be as powerful as Golden's, but her voice has plenty of character and it was a pleasure to listen to.

Jenalee Mariotti also took on a number of musical numbers, but she was most enjoyable delivering her lines as Darlene Love, a supporting role but fun to watch, never-the-less.

Julie Kroger had one solo performance singing as Pattie Darcy. Kroger, like Reyes, has a uniqueness to her voice that made "Look of Love" another standout musical number.

The sets were minimal and allowed the play and more than 20 musical numbers to flow quickly. Meanwhile, the lights and sound (minus a few microphone flubs) were well utilized. The lights and sound effects supplemented the performances, not over powered them.

But my favorite thing about this play is that there are no recorded musical scores. Playing CD's for the actors to sing to often drown out the inexperienced singers. This production kept it simple - musical director Charla Wheeler on the piano and assistant Ed Wheeler on the guitar allowed the singers to take control of their performances and really shine.

Leader of the Pack returns for two final performances this coming weekend - Friday, April 29, and Saturday, April 30 - at 7 p.m. in the Grandview Middle School gym.

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