Leader of the Pack

Northern Light Theatre Company. Shedley Theatre – 25 Mar to 9 Apr.

This is a fun, colourful ‘Juke Box’ musical for fans of the songs from the early 60’s. Based on the story of songwriter Ellie Greenwich, Northern Light Theatre Company under the first-time direction of Steve Rudd, have produced a delightful little production with some standout performances.

The weak story line is superfluous in this show, but it doesn’t matter – most of the audience have come to enjoy the music, with popular songs such as ‘Baby, I Love You’, 'Do Wah Diddy Diddy’, 'River Deep, Mountain High’, ‘Da Doo Ron Ron’ and of course ‘Leader of the Pack’. It’s difficult not to start tapping your feet and bopping in your seat when this classy ensemble start belting out the famous numbers.

The set looks big budget, with a lot of rostra forming different platforms and levels, unfortunately a potentially great set is poorly lit, with off colours and dim lighting, the follow spot colour made the stage colour look dirty and the wash was generally off.

The orchestra however, under musical direction of Kim Clark, were great. Orchestra volume was way too high in the opening but much better though the show. Microphone volumes however were a mixture of good and bad, leaving some voices lost in the music.

Choreography by Kerreane Sarti was period, and looked effective. Most of the time the dancing was great, however in the slower more fluid movement’s issues with synchronicity were a clear and could have been improved.

Michelle Brow in the lead role of Young Ellie Greenwich was outstanding. Her singing voice sounded so beautiful and her performance was emotionally packed. Melanie Smith and Kate Dempsey as lead singers of The Crystals and The Ronettes respectively, also had outstanding voices. Dempsey’s microphone was too low however, which was disappointing.

There were many standouts in the ensemble, whose performances should not go unmentioned. Angus Smith singing with his deep bass tone was integral to the production and his consistency and tonality was tremendous. Go Go Dancers, Haydee Watkin, Amber Platten, Hayley Wolfendale and Rosanna Commisso also performed their hearts out, dancing energetically with skill and passion. Bianca Levai as the lounge singer showed us her unique and amazing voice, and Brad Butvila and Paul Briske had great characterisations.

The first half of the show was remarkably low on energy for a Friday night performance with an almost full house. Being so close to the end of the run, it would have been nice to see more confidence with some of the dance moves. Some of the ensemble still looking around to see what comes next, and mouthing the wrong words as lyrics were forgotten. The second half definitely picked up however, the cast gaining a lot of focus in the more poignant scenes which carried them through.

The show is written to close with ‘We’re Gonna Make It After All’, which really drops the energy from the previous number ‘River Deep, Mountain High’. Rudd cleverly slotted a reprise of ‘River Deep, Mountain High’ on the end however, pumping up the audience for the bows. A good fun show, which made for a fun, light evening’s entertainment.

Paul Rodda