Dreamgirls The Musical
Having being slow off the mark on Dreamgirls I finally got round to seeing it! This famous film actually started its life as a musical back in 1981 and it wasn’t until 2006 that it was turned into the film starring the likes of Queen Bey and Jennifer Hudson. It finally opened on the West End in the latter part of last year.
Dreamgirls tells of a group of 3 girls, the Dreamettes, made up of the lead singer, Effie White, the ‘beautiful’ one, Deena Jones and Lorrell Robinson, with Effie’s brother C.C writing their songs. They get their first break when Curtis, persuades James ‘Thunder’ Early to let the Dreamettes sing back up. Effie soon begins to date Curtis and Lorrell starts an affair with Jimmy. The problems however begin when Curtis moves Deena into the slot of lead singer, replacing Effie. Effie eventually is forced out of the group and the newly named Dreams make it big with Deena as their front woman.
There are 2 main things that stood out for me about Dreamgirls. The first of these was how slick and well designed the production was. This was helped by the impressive set, focused around a lighting rig which assisted seamless transitions from one scene to another. The costumes developed from bright, colourful day clothes to stunning gowns, reflecting the bands growth and the choreography was in keeping with the time whilst still looking fresh.
The other thing that stood out was Amber Riley’s much lauded phenomenal voice. Jennifer Hudson is big shoes (or should I say voice) to fill however Riley manages to make me forget Hudson and deliver her own jaw dropping performance. Her range and belt had people cheering mid way through the song. Effie’s development throughout the show was well delivered by Riley as well, going from an innocent naive girl to bitter and then finally onto a strong, mature woman.
The fellow Dreams also played their parts well. Deena was played by Liisi LaFontaine and Lorrell by Ibinabo Jack. They oozed pop star status and you easily believed the media frenzy surrounding Deena. Jimmy Early played by Adam J Bernard also embodied the celebrity nicely with a great swagger and charisma. The ensemble are equally as strong, always committed to the number and performing as if this performance could be their last.
My main grievance with this show is that I just didn’t care enough and therefore wasn’t really moved at any point throughout the show. The show didn’t develop the relationships deep enough in order for me to emotionally invest. This included the relationship between Effie, Deena and Lorrell as well as Effie/Deena and Curtis and Lorrell and Jimmy. This was partly due to the book which gives way too frequently to the glitzy numbers. Curtis is presented in a 2 dimensional manner,leaving you wondering what both Effie and Deena see in him and therefore making this relationship harder to buy into. I was willing myself to have a tear or even well up at vital moments however unfortunately it just didn’t happen.
Some of the songs are simply spellbinding with catchy riffs and meaningful sentiment however the score isn’t consistently strong and a few of the numbers are quickly forgettable. Due to the vast difference in quality of the numbers the contrast is stark, although the stronger numbers mean that you forgive the odd bland number.
Dreamgirls is an enjoyable night out at the theatre and a great example of great design, slick production and strong vocals but unfortunately left me wanting more depth from the production as a whole.
Dreamgirls is currently booking until October. Visit their website for more information.