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Dreamgirls a dream come true
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Dreamgirls a dream come true

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN Contributing Writer

Dreamgirls
Paramount
Theatre
Through
April 11


If 'all you have to do is dream' to make the Dreamgirls appear, then you are a lucky person. The rest of us will have to go to the box office and get tickets for the show. The musical opened at the Paramount Theatre on Tuesday, April 6, 2010 and (I am telling you) it's not to be missed.

The story should be very familiar, thanks to the original success of the musical and the much later film version. A young trio of innocent girl singers, Deena, Lorrell, and Effie, catch the eye of a fast-talking agent, Curtis Taylor, Jr. Curtis gets the girls a job singing back-up to James 'Thunder' Early, an R&B singer. After bartering the talent of lead singer Effie, Curtis rearranges the group to make Deena the star because she has a smoother and more appealing appearance. Trouble ensues until Effie is forced to leave the group.

American Idol runner-up Syesha Mercado does well as ingénue Deena Jones. She's proven already that she can sing, and her acting is sufficient for the effervescent role of Deena. From the moment she walks on stage, starting out as back-up, she begins to add 'something else' to her movement. Whether it's a little extra shoulder shrug or subtle wink when smiling, the audience notices immediately that there is more to her character than 'oohs' and 'ahhs.'

Adrienne Warren plays Lorrell Robinson, whose character perhaps undergoes the most growth of the three. This character could easily get lost in the mix as a 'middle character,' but Ms. Warren doesn't allow it. Showing the audience her character's naiveté practically from her entrance, Lorrell goes on maturing and eventually becomes a strong individual.

Moya Angela adds her own signature to the tragic and triumphant Effie Melody White. Her voice is strong and from her first vocal in 'Move (You're Steppin' on My Heart),' the audience gets the feeling that she can deliver. While her stage blocking can appear a little stiff at times, it's easily forgiven for the powerful instrument she carries. At the finale of Act One, the musical tension builds until, like the calm before a tempest, she begins the hurt whispers of 'And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going.' Instead of invoking gospel fervor as past performers have, Ms. Angela tackles a more challenging interpretation and delivers pure emotion and hurt. Her pain is evident. We can't help but see it, and we feel it right along with her.

The main principle characters all do fine jobs. Trevon Davis does well as Effie's brother, C.C. White. His character comes across as incidental, but he still puts his own stamp on the role. Original agent Marty, played by Milton Craig Nealy, also shows us the struggles of keeping his clients while someone else greases his way onto the playing field. The only main character that seemed unsure was Agent/Hustler Curtis Taylor, Jr., played by Chas Lamar Shepherd. We are shown repetitively his character's smarmy ways and oily behavior. The underhanded actions are brought across clearly, but the audience doesn't see any of his charm. We don't see why two of the three girls fall for him, professionally or romantically. He didn't express to the audience any clearly likeable qualities, and the character really calls for the portrayal to be a little slicker.

Another major character that needs to be mentioned is the staging. The sets are an active part of the production. Composed of thousands of lights, they twinkle and flash, adding as much to the mood of the show as the music or the actors. Rotating panels open and close, allowing the audience to see both on-stage and behind-the-scenes action simultaneously. The scenic designer (Robin Wagner) and the lighting designer (Ken Billington) definitely need to be mentioned for their beautiful and breathtaking work.

Dreamgirls is a show worth seeing on the stage. While the movie did a wonderful recreation - one of the better stage-to-screen transferences - there is still something special about seeing a performance live. Sitting in a movie theater and eating popcorn doesn't compare to having goosebumps conquer your flesh as you witness the trio's rise and emotional crashes. You will not be disappointed, despite any familiarity with the storyline. And I am telling you, go get your ticket.

Dreamgirls opened on Broadway in November, 1981. Taking the season by storm, the show was nominated for over 12 Tony Awards and won seven. Originally created with Nell Carter in mind, her conflict with television schedules allowed Jennifer Holiday to enter and win the Tony Award for Best Actress in a musical. The original cast recording stars include Loretta Devine (Lorrell), Sheryl Lee Ralph (Deena) and Jennifer Holiday (Effie). A full-length concert version (with Heather Hadley, Audra McDonald and Lillias White) was released on two CDs in 2001.

Controversy began when Diana Ross claimed the story was stolen from her life, with herself as the model for Deena, and troubled original Supreme member Florence Ballard as the inspiration for Effie. Barry Gordy, founder of the Motown record label, also has threatened lawsuits against the musical's creators. The show's authors claim it was based on several girl trio groups similar to The Supremes, The Rondettes, and The Chiffons, among others.

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