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Jul. 11—Three months ago, Midland Community Theatre audiences were taken back in time to the rocking 80s with the musical "Rock of Ages."
Now, MCT audiences will be transported a little further to the doo-wop sounds of the 60s with "Leader of the Pack."
The Pickwick Players production will open this week with a 7:30 p.m. show July 14 and continue through July 23 with six shows total.
Tickets can be purchased online at tinyurl.com/35u2ujrt.
Directing this production is Bill Williams.
"Opening night is always special," Williams said. "It is the first show that we do after having our company auditions in May. It is a great opportunity to see our veteran members act with the younger members of the group. It has been fun to see them working as a creative unit this summer."
It's famously known as a "Jukebox Musical" as audiences at Midland Community Theatre will hear plenty of familiar tunes.
The hit Broadway musical retrospective celebrates the life and times of Ellie Greenwich, whose doo-wop sounds skyrocketed to the top of the 60s charts.
The story of Ellie's rise to fame and fortune is punctuated with the virtual hit parade of her music: "Chapel of Love," "Da Doo Ron Ron," "Be My Baby," "Hanky Panky," "Do Wah Diddy Diddy," "And Then He Kissed Me," and "Leader of the Pack."
"Ellie Greenwich was an important songwriter in the 1960s," Williams said. "She worked out of the Brill Building in New York writing classic early rock and roll songs. Other writers working out of the Brill Building were: Burt Bacharach, Neil Diamond, Carole King, Laura Nyro, Tony Orlando, Paul Simon, Jerry Lieber, Mike Stoller, and Neil Sedaka. With all of those talented songwriters, there were a lot of important songs written out of that building located on Broadway and 49th. The show is a bio of her life as a young lady and how she grew into such an important person in the history of early rock and roll. It uses her songs to tell her story."
Williams works with the Pickwick Players and directed their last production "Sense and Sensibility" back in March as well as last summer's musical "Matilda."
"I always enjoy working with the talented teens we have at Midland Community Theatre," Williams said. "It is always a pleasure to see them grow during the rehearsal process. Their creative spirit is contagious."
However, doing a "Jukebox Musical" doesn't go without its challenges.
"The biggest challenge is that the show is 80 percent music and dance," Williams said. "The scenes are very short and lead into the next song. For that reason, it is a different type of musical. There has been a lot more emphasis on singing and dancing, even more than for a traditional musical."
Playing the role of Ellie (which has been double cast) are Lainee Atkinson and Reagan Sockwell.
"I'm super excited," Sockwell said. "I really enjoy singing and dancing. The show is full of it and it's really fun."
Atkinson echoed those thoughts.
"I'm so excited," Atkinson said. "I feel like we've put so much work into this show. It's been fun to spend time with everyone and put in the work and learn the songs. I'm excited for everyone to see it."
Both Atkinson and Sockwell talked about why they enjoy playing Ellie.
"Ellie is a very strong and independent woman," Sockwell said. "She enjoys writing songs and she's very talented. She's very on top of what she does. If she wants something, she's going to get it. She's not going to let anything stand in her way."
Atkinson said she can almost relate to her character.
"I think she's kind of similar to me in some sense," Atkinson said. "It's easy to relate to her so it's been nice to be able to relate in that way as an actor to be able to know how she's thinking. It's easier for me to know what she's doing in that scene and that song because I feel like I'm similar to her."
This will be Sockwell's third show at MCT.
"I really enjoy the cast," Sockwell said. "The people here are very fun and we brought in some new Pickwicks and it's really exciting to perform with them and get to know them."
This is Atkinson's 12th show.
"They've been pretty fun," Atkinson said. "The best part has been the relationships we've made with our friends and getting to act with them."
Auditions were held back in early June and rehearsals started on June 7.
For Williams, it's been a fun show to direct and also said that he has been adding a lot of songs from that time to his playlist.
"What stands out the most is that I leave rehearsal each day either singing or humming one of the songs from the show and I find myself waking up each morning with a tune of Ellie's stuck in my head," Williams said.
For more information about the show or Midland Community Theatre, visit tinyurl.com/3zmfyr5y.
If you go
— What: "Leader of the Pack."
— When: 7:30 p.m. July 14, 7:30 p.m. July 15, 2:30 p.m. July 16, 7:30 p.m. July 21, 7:30 p.m. July 22, 2:30 p.m. July 23.
— Where: Midland Community Theatre (Davis Theatre I).
— Where to purchase tickets: tinyurl.com/35u2ujrt