"Baby It’s You" Opens at the Broadhurst on April 27

"Baby It’s You," tells the real life story of Florence Greenberg and the Shirelles.

“Baby It’s You,” a play about the 1960s group, the Shirelles, and the lady who discovered them, Florence Greenberg, is presently in preview at the Broadhurst Theatre, located at 235 West 44th Street in Manhattan.  The show opens on April 27, 2011.

This brilliant musical tells the true life story of a New Jersey housewife who after discovering 4 Passaic High School singers (Shirley Owens, Beverly Lee, Addie “Micki” Harris, and Doris Coley), began managing them, catapulting them and herself to fame. Florence Greenberg (Beth Leavel) eventually created Scepter Records, becoming the first female music industry executive.

Tony Award winner Beth Leavel headlines the show featuring bright young talent such as Allan Louis (Luther Dixon), Geno Henderson (who plays Chuck Jackson, Ronald Isley), Erica Ash (Addie, Dionne Warwick), Kelli Barrett (Mary Jane Greenberg), Christina Sajous (Shirley), Crystal Starr Knighton (Doris), and Kyra DaCosta as Beverly. The cast does a stellar job. Written by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux, Mr. Mutrux also conceived and directed the show along with Sheldon Epps.

The 1958-1965 period piece costumes, designed by Lizz Wolf, are elegant and filled with show biz flash.  The dance numbers choreographed by Birgitte Mutrux are spectacular and innovative.  The music directed by Shelton Becton, musical arrangements by Rahn Coleman and orchestration by Don Sebesky has the audience on its feet.  

Baby boomers and younger audiences alike, were treated to song favorites like “Mama Said,” “Sixteen Candles,” “Shout,” “Hey Paula,” “I Say A Little Prayer,” “You Really Got A Hold on Me,” “He’s So Fine,” “Duke of Earl,” “Our Day Will Come,” “Soldier Boy,” “It’s My Party,” “Yakety Yak,” “Twist and Shout,” “Book of Love,” “Rockin Robin,” and of course “Baby It’s You,” just to name a few.

“I was shopping at Macys for Christmas gifts with my daughter when I got a call to audition for the role. It turned out to be a great Christmas gift.  Playing Florence Greenberg would be a role anyone would covet.  I had no idea about Greenberg until I did some research.  But when I step onto stage I just fall into a theatrical flow, stated Beth Leavel.  “It’s amazing, but when I focus on Florence she takes over.  I feel more confident now and have made the audience a partner simply introducing them to who Florence Greenberg was as a person,” continued the Drama Desk, and NY Outer Critics Circle and L.A. Drama Critics Award winner.

The first single put out by Greenberg’s fledgling company was “Dedicated to the One I Love,” originally sang by a group called the Royales. Once the Shirelles heard it they sang it for Florence. Scepter recorded it in 1959, with Florence and her son Stanley producing it and Doris Coley singing the opening line.

In need of promotion, Florence hired Wally Roker.  Roker introduced her to song writer/producer, Luther Dixon.  Greenberg was so impressed by Dixon’s songwriting abilities she gave him a piece of the publishing as well as a huge financial package.  Dixon worked on the artistic projects while Greenberg did promotion and ran the company.  It was an ideal and lucrative partnership. Greenberg and Dixon collaborated on the song “Tonight’s the Night.”  The song went to #39 on the charts.  The success of this small music company began to attract other songwriters. Carole King and her husband, Gerry Goffin presented their song “Tomorrow,” which the Shirelles recorded as “Will You Love Me Tomorrow.” It rocketed to #1 bringing Scepter and the group to national acclaim.

Greenberg founded the Wand label in 1961.  She signed on other artists such as Chuck Jackson to the Wand label. In 1961, she signed ex-Flamingos vocalist Tommy Hunt, who immediately charted as well. The Isley Brothers had a brief stint with Scepter’s Wand recording  “Twist and Shout.” By 1962, Burt Bacharach, (a bandleader and songwriter who worked with Scepter, co-writing and arranging “Baby Its You,” for the Shirelles and “Any Day Now” for Chuck Jackson) introduced Florence to Dionne Warwick.  Greenberg immediately signed Warwick to the label. Burt Bacharach and Hal David collaborated on a song entitled  “Don’t Make Me Over.” The song was a hit. Bacharach and David wrote over 31 songs for  Warwick, the most popular among them was “I Say a Little Prayer.”

By 1963, Luther Dixon left Scepter and signed with Capitol Records ending his long time partnership with Scepter with the song “Foolish Little Girl,” which rose to #4. It was the last time the Shirelles made the top 20, although their records continued to sell. Greenberg replaced Dixon with Ed Townsend, making Townsend head of A&R.

Florence bought the tape to the song “Louie Louie,” a Kingsmen recording, which was very successful. She later signed Maxine Brown whose song, “Oh No Not My Baby” was a success for Scepter.  Florence continued to add many new artists throughout the years.

Florence Greenberg retired in 1976 and on November 2, 1995, died of heart failure.

“Baby It’s You,” is a musical tribute to Florence Greenberg’s life and career and is a must see production.  Check it out.  You will be glad you did.  For information about the show visit http://babyitsyouonbroadway.com

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