A musical that sparkles with sharp dialogue and a fantastic cast as well as a brutal insight into the music industry and its pitfalls.
If you are looking for a show with big tunes and plenty of attitude then this might just be what you are in search of.
Dreamgirls is the story of three strong personalities who combine to create the group The Dreams, aiming to become the next big thing in the music industry – but as they soon discover the music industry is a fickle thing as well as being completely fabulous.
Thirty five years after its original production on Broadway, this wonderfully glamorous production directed by Casey Nicholaw once again shows why Nicholaw is one of the most exciting directors and choreographers working in theatre at the moment. Having worked his magic on Aladdin and Elf the Musical, his interpretation of this musical is a blend of sassy attitude mixed with just a hint of brutality that works well to take audiences back stage into the music business.
It is a show that doesn’t mess about, from The Dreams being discovered to being asked to support Jimmy Early and beyond, it is a detailed insight into what happens if we realise that our dreams aren’t all they are cracked up to be. Betrayal, jealousy, family and rediscovering yourself are all issues intertwined with the story and the characters.
Amber Riley as Effie White is completely suited to the role. Her attitude is inspiring rather than rude and the audience is still able to sympathise with her to an extent when she realises her dream is taken away from her by two people that she thought she could trust. Riley’s rendition of ‘And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going’ is so powerful that it is a surprise the roof doesn’t come off and is worth going to hear alone.
Also impressing in his role as Jimmy Early, Adam J.Bernard has so much energy from beginning to end it is almost dizzying, particularly when he is doing ‘The Rap’. Bernard has plenty of character and personality that he almost overshadows The Dreams, but he knows exactly when to rein it in.
Joe Aaron Reid is equally impressive as Curtis – beginning as simply charming before his more ruthless side appears when he changes Effie from lead to backing singer or when he refuses Deena to take on a role in a film. To watch the way in which his dream changes him for the worse is a cautionary tale of how dreams can go wrong.
There is great support from Liisi LaFontaine as Deena and Ibinabo as Lorrell – vocally standing up impressively against Riley’s, but perhaps needing a bit more time to grow into their roles a bit more.
The music is a mixture of soul and jazz, but Nicholaw has choreographed some great sequences to complement the music, particularly during ‘Steppin’ to the Bad Side’ which is sharp and edgy and captures the changing era and attitude to music perfectly.
While Tim Hatley’s set design might look a bit sparse, it does move and change with ease, reflecting the spirit of the show and allowing as much attention to be given to the choreography as possible.
It is also surprising that the first act is overshadowed by Jimmy Early and The Dreams are less involved than you would think, until towards the interval when events begin to really kick off between the band and Curtis.
While the show is sparkly and glamorous on the surface (thanks to the wonderful and at times flamboyant costume designs by Gregg Barnes), underneath it is surprisingly serious, with flashes of sharp humour that makes it a compelling piece of theatre.
I am telling you – you need to see this for the talent, the production and the music – which all work in perfect harmony from beginning to end.
Dreamgirls is now playing at the Savoy Theatre. To book tickets visit: ATG Tickets, Ticketmaster.co.uk, Discount Theatre.com, Last Minute.com,Theatre Tickets Direct.co.uk, Love Theatre.com, Theatre People.com and UK Tickets.co.uk.