Five of Vermont's most talented and exceptional rock n' roll singers make up the cast of The Prima Donnettes.  As Burlington's own girl group they memorably deliver an engaging musical revue that tracks the way womens' thoughts and feelings were conveyed in music and the world-at-large during the period from the late 1950's to the early 1970's. Girls Nite Out Productions presents nine shows from October 2 -12, 2014 at Main Street Landing’s Black Box Theater located at Lake and College Streets in Burlington. 

The Prima Donnettes: Girls Nite Out Productions Celebrates Women in Song

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Thursday September 25, 2014

“Music changes, and I’m gonna change right along with it.” 
— Aretha Franklin  

Aretha gets it right every time and so does Girls Nite Out Productions with their fall show selection, The Prima Donnettes. A paean to women and the songs we grew up not only listening to, but singing into our hairbrush microphones in front of the mirror. After all, belting out the letters R-E-S-P-E-C-T along with a few sock it to me’s will brighten any day.  

The Prima Donnettes is Girls Nite Out Production’s (GNOP) first musical and an excellent match for their mission to create and produce great performance opportunities for women of all ages.   It features five women performing the soundtrack from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, from ‘girl groups’ like The Shirelles and The Dixie Cups, to British Invasion’s Dusty Springfield, as well as acclaimed solo artists like Aretha, Diana Ross and Carole King.  More than an engaging musical review, as Director Phyllis Stambolian explains, “this musical takes us on a journey that shows us how women’s ideas about love changed from the teen years to womanhood. So it takes us from the more traditional women’s roles to the beginning of the women’s liberation movement.” If you think you are in for a history lesson, think again. The Prima Donnettes, whether singing close harmony, backup “sha-la-las” or powerhouse solos, will have the audience grooving in their seats.

Phyllis Stambolian is excited to be a first time director for GNOP. A skillful communicator with intelligence and depth, Stambolian radiates warmth along with a fine-tuned impish sense of humor that is well served in this production.  Many people will be familiar with Stambolian from South Burlington High School where she was a counselor for many years. Stambolian recalls, “I also used to direct SBHS’s Talent Night and have many fond memories of those years working with the fantastic students.” Stambolian is supported in her directorial efforts by someone near and dear to her heart, her sister and producer, Janet.  Phyllis remarks, “It’s been a great experience working with her, she’s got my back. I’m so grateful she’s part of the team.”  Janet Stambolian, also co-founder of GNOP and chair of the board, says Phyllis is “intuitively astute. She loves this music so much that it’s been a joy watching her work with such a creative group of women.” 

While Phyllis Stambolian has enjoyed a variety of theatre roles, from managing front of house, costumes and even kid wrangling, at the top of her list is performing. Stambolian has been singing all her life in choirs and cabarets, but musical theatre is her passion.  She studied voice and vocal performance extensively in Vermont and New York City and is excited to take on the creative challenge of directing. It was the music that drew Stambolian to The Prima Donnettes.  “It reminds me of all my wonderful memories growing up when going to dances was cool, dancing ‘wrap around’ was risqué, and the radio was on constantly and everywhere.”   

Stambolian is excited about her cast, five women whose ages range from late 20’s to mid 40’s, enthusiastically noting, “I admired each of them from past performances!”  The Prima Donnettes features Stacey Bressette, Serena Magnan-O’Connell, Nora Pemberton, Sabrina Sydnor, and GNOP co-founder and executive director, Jennifer Warwick. And these women can sing! From Mama Said to One Fine Day, these five women create a fun and moving tribute to voices past. Stambolian along with Music Director Ashley O’Brien, and Choreographers Rebecca Raskin and Alissa Auerbach, celebrate the songs of the ‘50s through the’70s and the women who sang them.

Hailing from South Burlington, cast member Nora Pemberton performed on the GNOP stage in 2012 as Renee in the female version of The Odd Couple. At the time, she was pregnant with her first child, daughter Paige. Coincidentally, for The Prima Donnettes, Pemberton is again with child. She jokes, “I guess I only do GNOP shows when I’m on the nest!”  Known for her commanding vocals and dynamic stage presence, Pemberton was drawn to audition for this show because of its exciting musical content. “Plus I knew it’d be my farewell to theatre for awhile since I have a baby on the way.” Her favorite song in the show is River Deep, Mountain High. “It’s high energy and so much fun to perform. Our harmonies are tight and it’s clear we love performing together.” 

The incomparable singer songwriter Carole King once noted, “If you don’t have a good song, you don’t have anything.” In that case, The Prima Donnettes surely has it all. As Pemberton says, “you will leave the theatre be-bopping.”  Phyllis Stambolian concurs and adds, “dancing and singing too!”  

Tickets are on sale now for The Prima Donnettes, developed by Richard Hopkins & Jim Prosser with Rebecca Hopkins, directed by Phyllis Stambolian, and produced by Janet Stambolian and Girls Nite Out Productions. There will be nine shows from October 2 - 5 and October 9 - 12, 2014, at Main Street Landing’s Black Box Theater located at Lake and College Streets in Burlington, Vermont.  For ticket info and showtimes: or call 802-86-FLYNN.

SOURCE: Carole Vasta Folley, Guest Contributor