Leader of the Pack – The Ellie Greenwich Musical at Waterloo East Theatre – ‘likeable’
Based on the life and career of songwriter Ellie Greenwich, Leader of the Pack is a likeable if formulaic musical biography, in similar territory to current West End hit, Beautiful. The Brooklyn-born writer is portrayed as a talented and ambitious artist, who became part of the Brill Building factory, churning out huge popular hits and creating the Girl Group sound.
As is so often the way with jukebox musicals, the book seems desperately thin with very little conflict to engage its audience emotionally. Greenwich – played by an endearing Abi Finley – marries her partner Jeff Barry at the end of the first act, to the appropriate accompaniment of Going To The Chapel. By the opening of act two, the marriage is on the rocks. Much of the show is dedicated to Greenwich creating her hits – including the creation of the Ronettes and the Shangri-Las – until finally she slows down enough to contemplate her lot with a couple of power ballads.
Despite Finley’s winning performance, it’s the hits that make this show and the cast of mostly actor-musicians do some justice to Greenwich’s back catalogue. It’s just a shame that a weak sound design means that the tight harmonies are all but lost to an overpowering band.