Allderdice students hit high notes with iconic ‘60s pop hits in ‘Leader of the Pack’
When the lights go down at Pittsburgh Allderdice High School and the music starts, James Rankin hopes to hit all the right notes from his place in the orchestra pit.
“There’s something magical about being a part of the live performance,” says the junior who lives in Greenfield.
About 30 students, including those in the cast and orchestra, will stage the musical “Leader of the Pack” on April 4-7 at the Squirrel Hill school.
Rankin, a percussionist, says all of them are working hard, bonded by the desire to give the best performance.
“It’s always really awesome just to see something come together,” he says. “That’s an experience you can share for the rest of your life.”
The musical, first produced on Broadway in 1985, tells the story of songwriter Ellie Greenwich, who, with her then-husband Jeff Barry, was behind ‘60s hits like “Be My Baby,” “Da Doo Ron Ron” and the title song made famous by the Shangri-Las.
“It showcases their music from that time period, so it’s a fun pop/rock musical,” says Teresa Madden-Harrold, in her fifth year directing the musical at the Pittsburgh public school.
The show suits a young group of performers well, she says.
“The vocals and layered and varied, but they’re simple enough to learn quickly,” Madden-Harrold says. “We have some fantastic singers in our group and it plays to our strengths musically.”
This production doesn’t require massive set pieces or detailed fantastical props, but Madden-Harrold says the students in the cast had fun mastering the 1960s-era dance styles.
“They’re really brave, they’re willing to take risks,” Madden-Harrold says. “These are kids who are just willing to try something new and perform — many for the first time, especially in a musical.”
Rankin says musical director Brian Lee, who leads the orchestra, and the rest of the staff and faculty working with the students have shared their knowledge and passion for theater.
Working toward the production even months before they jumped into the singing or dance moves, students have been fundraising with everything from greeting cards to candy bars.
Recently, the Allderdice Class of 1978 donated four high-quality lavalier microphones, which the theater program normally has to rent. “We’re really grateful for the community for helping us with some of these production costs that come up,” Madden-Harrold says.
Tickets are available at the door: $8 for adults and $5 for students with performance at 7 p.m. April 4-6 and 2 p.m. April 7.