Florence Greenberg (Meeghan Holaway) was a restless Passaic housewife with two nearly grown kids (Suzanne Petrela and Adam Irizarry) and a husband (Barry Pearl) resentful of her love for newfangled rock & roll. (When Bernie tells his missus, “Yakkity yak — don’t talk back,” he’s serious.) Flo left to create Scepter Records, taking with her four local girls whom she shaped into the Shirelles, the original queens of the hop. Floyd Mutrux’s splashy doo-wop, jukebox musical tracks the naive but strong-willed exec as she discovers the brief glories of being on top of the charts with a new man at her side, prideful lyricist and producer Luther Dixon (Allan Louis). Mutrux and co-writer Colin Escott see this as a story about suits, not singers: the Shirelles (Berlando Drake, Erica Ash, Paulette Ivory and Crystal Starr Knighton, all excellent) get stage time but no individuality except for Drake’s Shirley, who makes a play for Luther. But everything is tangential to the music. If the second act didn’t start with an endless but excellent cabaret of oldies by composers from Ron Isley to Lesley Gore, there’d be more plot and less applause. From the corner of the stage, a DJ named Jocko (Geno Henderson) interrupts to set the year, and the production is as much about a nostalgic nod to the era of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof as it is about the story of an outsider building her kingdom. (Ironically, the least-familiar song is also the best, “The Dark End of the Street,” later covered by everyone from Dolly Parton to Frank Black.) Still, though Flo and her teen queens deserve more development, the evening closes with a grace note, as the five ladies sing together in harmony, knowing that even if they didn’t shake up the world, they seized their own destinies. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; through Dec. 13. (626) 356-PLAY.
Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 4 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Starts: Nov. 13. Continues through Dec. 20, 2009
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