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THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2015 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

North Shore Music Theatre's first show of their 60th Anniversary season is "Dreamgirls" which won six Tony Awards, five Drama Desk Awards and two Grammy Awards. The original Broadway show opened on December 21, 1981 and ran for 1,522 performances. The 2006 movie version won 2 Academy Awards. It takes place in Chicago in the early 1960's and is loosely based on the story of the Supremes and Motown Records.The musical follows the story of an all girl singing trio from Chicago called the Dreamettes who became superstars. Curtis Taylor, Jr., a car salesman, breaks into the music business with big dreams. He signs the Dreamettes and gets them a job backing an R&B performer, James "Thunder" Early, establishes his own record label and starts wheeling and dealing. When Early flames out, Curtis makes the Dreamettes into headliners as the Dreams, but not before demoting their hefty big voiced lead singer, Effie White, and putting the softer voiced looker, Deena Jones, in front. Soon after, he fires Effie, sends her into a life of proud poverty and takes Deena and the Dreams to the top. How long can Curtis stay there, and will Effie ever get her due? Director/choreographer Nick Kenkel knows how to put together a smash hit musical with high powered energy from start to finish with many show stopping moments along the way. He and musical director Jesse Vargas' expertise creates an astounding Broadway style musical with all the glitz and glamour, taking their 22 member cast into an epic must see musical extravaganza of this season. What a way to open NSMT's sixty anniversary season. Bravo!

Nick's direction and blocking is topnotch and his choreography is breathtaking as he recreates the 1960's dances perfectly. He also obtains every bit of emotion and angst out of his cast, eliciting a powerful and magnetic connection to a very appreciative and involved audience who react to every single thing happening in the show. Jesse's vocalists and 10 piece orchestra are superb, too. The argument songs are thrilling to listen to as are the ballads. The harmonic blend between orchestra and vocalists shine, too. The show is lead by powerhouse vocalist, Bryhona Marie Parham as Effie. She is magnificent in this gut wrenching role of heartbroken woman who becomes a success despite all the obstacles put in her way. Bryhona stops the show with her "And I'm Telling You I Am Not Going" which blows the audience away with its pathos and power, winning her a standing ovation at the close of Act 1. Her acting is fantastic as she grows from naive gal from Chicago to pathetic fired singer to victorious woman who gets rewarded for her God given talent by the end of the show. Her other numbers include "I am Changing", where she gets a second chance in Chicago due to Marty's help,"I Miss You Old Friend", when she and her brother, C.C. reconcile, and "One Night Only" which her brother, C.C. wants her to record and she picks herself up from the depths of despair. Another standout performance is by Britney Coleman as Deena. This gal can not only sing and act but dance wonderfully, too. She grows from naive girl to prima donna during the show but she also delivers a heartfelt turn when she discovers Curtis' machinations to step on everyone to get to the top. Britney gets to strut her stuff with the girls in "Move", "Dreamgirls", "One Night Only", "I'm Somebody" and "Hard to say Goodbye." She plays this Diana Ross inspired diva to the hilt.

The third member of the trio is Destinee Rea as Lorrell. The character is the youngest one in the group and immediately falls in love with the womanizing Jimmy who is very much married. She carries the torch for him for years until she finally confronts him and dumps him. Destinee sends chills up your spine with her fabulous voice in the argument segment which includes "Ain't No Party" and "Quintette". Lorrell is a hilarious as the free spirit in Act 1 and becomes more serious in Act 2. The fourth Dream, Michele is played by Breanna Bartley. She appears at the end of the first act as Effie's replacement and becomes a sympathetic figure in the second act when she convinces C.C. to make peace with Effie after all these years of estrangement. Destinee and Breanna do a great job as the disgruntled gals pushed into the background by Deena, the diva.

The leading men do excellent work with their acting, singing and dancing, too. The despicable Motown producer, Curtis is well played by Grasan Kingsberry. Behind his smooth silky singing voice, lies the heart of a callous, mean spirited man who wants to control everyone by threatening them or paying someone off to do his dirty work. Grasan captures the essence of this cold hearted man excellently. He displays his strong voice in "Cadillac Car", "Family", "It's All Over" when he fires Effie, and "When I First Saw You" when he woos Deena and convinces her to keep on singing. C.C. is well played by Noah J. Rickets. He makes him a lovable character except when he loses his temper with Effie in "It's All Over" and with Curtis when he ruins his "One Night Only" song. Noah displays the character's warmth when C.C. reconciles with Effie in "Effie Sing My Song" and when he woos Michelle in "I Meant You No Harm" both poignantly rendered. Eric LaJuan Summers plays the womanizing James who starts out as a big star but ends up a loser due to Curtis' betrayal and when Lorrell dumps him. He has a terrific voice which is heard in "Fake Your Way to the Top", "Steppin' to the Bad Side", "I Want You Baby" and "Jimmy's Rap" and he struts his stuff in several dance numbers, too.  He reminds you of a young James Brown. Marty, Jimmy's manager is well played by JC Montgomery. Marty gets thrown to the curb by Curtis. His strong voice is heard in the argument songs as well as in "Steppin' to the Bad Side" and "Jimmy's Rap." One of the funniest bits in the show is when Dave and the Sweethearts steal the original thunder of "Cadillac Car" and Tim McGarrigal is a hoot as this unhip white singer doing this soul song. However Tim is a superb vocalist and dancer, having reviewed him in "Chicago" at NSMT last September. So for a trip back to the 1960's, be sure to catch "Dreamgirls" at NSMT before they dance out of town. You won't want to miss this sensational musical masterpiece. Tell them Tony sent you. The gorgeous costumes especially the Dreams gowns are by Paula Peasley-Ninestein while the impressive wigs are by Gerard Kelly.

"Dreamgirls" (2 - 14 June)
@ 62 Dunham Road, BEVERLY MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide