Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Dreamgirls"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


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entire contents copyright 2006 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Massasoit's Buckley Performing Arts Center's current production is "Dreamgirls" which won six Tony Awards, five Drama Desk Awards, two Grammy Awards, opened on Broadway on December 20, 1981 and ran for 1,522 performances. The musical follows the story of an all girl singing trio from Chicago called "The Dreamette's" who become music superstars. tThe basic plot of the show is derived from the history of The Supremes, a girl-group from Detroit which was Motown's most successful group act during the 1960's. The show begins in 1962 when the Dreamettes enter the Famous Amateur Night talent competition at the Apollo Theater in New York City. The three girls include a full figured lead singer Effie White (based on Florence Ballard, the original lead singer of The Supremes) and her groupmates and best friends, Deena Jones ( based on Diana Ross) and Lorrell Robinson ( based on Mary Wilson). Backstage the girls meet Curtis Taylor Jr., a shady car salesman who becomes the Dreamettes' manager. He convinces Jimmy Early, a popular R&B star, and his manager, Marty, to take the girls on as backup singers. Angered by the failure of their first recording, Curtis, Marty and Effie's songwriter brother C.C. decide to bribe DJ's around the country to play Jimmy & the girl's next single, "Steppin to the Bad Side" and the record becomes a major pop hit. Things become more complicate when lovesick Effie begins dating Curtis, and Jimmy, a married man, begins an affair with Lorrell. Curtis begins to transform Jimmy into a Perry Como-esque pop singer and promotes the girls in their own act as The Dreams giving them a more sophisticated and pop-friendly look. He also puts Deena in as lead singer because she is thinner, replacing the gospel-voiced and heavier, Effie and Curtis begins to shift his affections to Deena, too. As Deena is increasingly feted as a star and with Effie missing rehearsals and performances, Curtis replaces her with a new singer, Michelle Morris. A heartbroken Effie is left behind proclaiming "And I Am Telling You I Am Not Going", the most powerful song in this show as The Dreams forge ahead without her. By 1972, Deena is an international star who no longer wants to tour the country as a singer but wants to be an actress and go into the movies, but Curtis who is now her husband refuses to let her go. Curtis also betrays C.C. by rearranging one of his ballad's entitled "One Night Only" into a disco song for the Dreams. C.C. brings the song to Effie, helping to revive her career. Once again Curtis uses his pay off scheme to push Deena's version up the charts and Effie's version down. His scheme is discovered by Marty, C.C. and Effie and they threaten to sue him for libel. Effie and Deena reconcile and Deena leaves Curtis and Lorrell dumps Jimmy. Effie rejoins the group onstage for their last concert and all four Dreams sing their signature song-"Dreamgirls"- one last time. This show has just been made into a movie which will open Christmas Day but before you go to see it, make sure you catch this stage production masterfully directed and choreographed by Michael Hammond in one of the most astounding and fabulous Broadway style musicals that must not be missed. The set, the costumes, the lighting and the sound as well as the musical direction by Janice Issa Wright blend together under Michael's superb direction, infusing this show with the poignancy and power needed to have a smash hit show in Brockton, MA. Bravo.

Michael's casting of each and everyone of these roles is perfect. His dances are breathtaking as he recreates the Supreme's dances and other dances of that era. Michael also gets every bit of emotion out of his performers, eliciting a powerful and magnetic connection to a very appreciative and involved audience who react to every single thing happening in the show. Janice's singers and orchestra are superb and the argument songs are thrilling to listen to as are the ballads and harmonic numbers, too. The set by Nathan Fogg is topnotch, as is the professional style lighting by Matt Guminski where you feel you are at a concert, in a TV studio, in a night club and in a Broadway style theater. The sound by Ed DiMarzio is perfect without a note or word being missed throughout the entire show and the multitude of costumes especially The Dreams many gowns are by Jennifer Spagone. Kudos to whoever did all the wigs for the show, they look awesome. Kudos to a wonderful tech crew who kept the show moving smoothly under tech director Brian Willis and stage manager Erin Thomas.

This show is lead by Tracy Silva as Effie. She is magnificent in this gut wrenching role of heartbroken woman who becomes a success despite all the obstacles placed in her way. Tracy stops the show with her "And I Am Telling You I Am Not Going" which just blows you away with its pathos and power. 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'm Changing", "One Night Only" and "Faith in Myself". Brava. Another standout performance is given by Samantha Brior Jones as Deena. This gal can not only sing and act but can dance wonderfully, too. She grows from naive gal to prima donna throughout the show but also delivers a heartfelt turn when she discovers Curtis' horrible machinations to step on everyone to get to the top. Samantha gets to strut her stuff with the girls in "Move", "Dreamgirls", "One Night Only", "I'm Somebody" and "Hard to Say Goodbye". The third member of this trio is Chalmbra Bernard as Lorrell. Lorrell is the youngest girl in the group and she immediately falls in love with the womanizing Jimmy who is very much married. She carries the torch for him for many years until she finally confronts and dumps him in, Chalmbra sends chills up your spine in the argument segment which includes "Ain't No Party", and "Quintette". She is hilarious in the first act and serious in the second. The fourth Dream, Michelle is played by Kerry Nichole Wilson. She appears near 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 their years of estrangement. Kerry and Chalmbra do a great job as the disgruntled gals pushed in 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 played by Joe Rucker Jr. Behind his smooth silky singing voice, lies the heart of a callous, mean spirited man who wants to control everyone's life by threatening them or paying off someone to do his dirty work. Joe captures the essence of this cold hearted man wonderfully and he gets to show off his singing voice in "Cadillac Car", "Family", "It's All Over" where he fires Effie and "When I First Saw You" where he woos Deena and convinces her to keep on singing. C.C. is played by Brian Duarte who makes this a loveable 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. He shows his warm side when he reconciles with her in "Effie Sing My Song" as well as when he woos Michelle in "I Meant You No Harm. James Jackson plays the womanizer, Jimmy who starts out as a big star but ends up a loser after being betrayed by Curtis and dumped by Lorrell. He has a great voice which he uses in "Fake Your Way to the Top", "Steppin to the Bad Side", "I Want You Baby" and "Jimmy's Rap" and he also struts his stuff in many dance numbers, too. Roderick Wilmore plays Jimmy's agent who 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 in "Jimmy's Rap". Marty also helps Effie get a job again in Chicago a few years after being thrown out of the Dreams. One of the funniest bits in the show is when a white group called Dave and the Sweethearts steal the original thunder of "Cadillac Car". Steve Dulude as the unhip singer and dancer of this soul song done with Deanna Felix and Elise Thomas is hilarious. Kudos to the whole cast for making this a sensational show. So for a trip back to the 1960's and 70's, be sure to catch "Dreamgirls" at Massasoit Performing Arts Center before time runs out. Tell them Tony sent you.

"Dreamgirls" (8 - 17 December)
Buckley Performing Arts Center, Route 27, BROCKTON MA
1 (508)588-9100 Ext. 1234

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide