HOLLYWOOD-It’s good to dream. It is also fruitful for that dream to turn into reality. The flame of the hit Broadway musical Dreamgirls continue to flicker with long-winded sustainability and a rich sense of nostalgia.
Thanks to the lifeblood transfusion it received from the motion picture of the same name that earned Jennifer Hudson an Academy Award for making us believe that Effie White was a real person and fueled props to Eddie Murphy, Jamie Foxx and Beyonce Knowles, Dreamgirls is still alive and kicking well.
If you’re headed to Hollywood, you might want to check out the latest rendition of Dreamgirls, now playing at the 99-seat Met Theatre. For those individuals who were too young to see the original cast of the soulful show that focuses on an all-girls group making it big (think The Supremes) that put the entertainment careers of Obba Babatunde, Jennifer Holliday, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Nell Carter into overdrive, the newer and more update version is pretty dynamic.
One of the first thing that is eye-catching about Dreamgirls is the large number of cast members in the show that are brought together to help pull off a sparkling-rich performance by both the supporting and main characters. Every song has been fined-tuned. Every scripted line seems to have been masterfully rehearsed.
Even the impromptu number where a cast member directly engages the audience is on point with slick orchestration.
As a member of the sitting audience watching Dreamgirls play out, you come to the conclusion that Curtis Taylor Jr. (played wonderfully by Welton Thomas Pitchford) is a dastardly individual without conscious. You feel the hurt, betrayal and anguish that Effie White (Constance Jewell Lopez) endures.
You become sympathetic for Jimmy “Thunder” Early (Keith Bolden), a tragic figure dying as much on the inside as he is from the freefall, fading singing career that has come to embody his worth as a once larger-than-life entertainer to a broken shadow of a person begging for another shot at stardom.
You come to know Deena Jones (Jennifer Colby Talton), who morphs from a wide-eyed teenager into a woman searching for her own identity that takes her away from her role as a wife and as lead singer of an acclaimed, world-famous singing group. Lorrell Robinson (Tyra Dennis) goes from be-bop immaturity to becoming the other woman with demands.
Dreamgirls is a fun play to watch. Its rhythmic musical numbers are just what the doctored ordered for a wild ride enjoyment of spit-fire acting, dance and song. This is where Dreamgirls comes alive. It is also where it succeeds. Re-creating roles that measure up to iconic standards can be a difficult task for any performer. Stepping out of the shadow of greatness is always a challenge. Lopez not only steps into the character role that earned Holliday a Tony Award and gave Hudson an Oscar, she carves it out like it was made for her.
The power that Lopez exudes in “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” is worth the price of admission by itself. It is something you won’t forget.
Lopez carries the role of Effie White like someone carrying a handbag. She wears it well. But she isn’t the only showstopper among this talented ensemble. Bolden gives a bravo performance as the likable but troubled and self-destructive Early. Ditto for Pitchford, who is so good in portraying the manipulative and power drunk Taylor that one almost feels the urge to run up to him on stage and pop him for being so nasty and ruthless.
Colby Talton and Dennis are no slouch in their roles. Colby Talton gives a very understated, yet strong portrayal of Jones, who flip-flops from being one of the girls to backstabbing friend to someone who believes she’s bigger than life before crashing down to bite some humble pie as she tries to wrestle control of her career from the cold-blooded Taylor.
Dennis is simply the light of energy that makes Dreamgirls come alive. Her radiance sparkles without hesitation when she is onstage and gives the play the kick it needs to keep going. Tiffany Williams (Michelle Morris) and Frank Andrus Jr. (C.C. White) also shine in their respective parts. Dreamgirls is a celebration. It is a celebration of the human spirit. Basked in the backdrop of the Motown era, Dreamgirls gives us an examination of the good, bad and ugly about ourselves.
Dreamgirls moves with spirited anticipation with resounding musical numbers that will indeed have you clapping your hands and thumping your feet. The DOMA Theatre Company’s presentation of Dreamgirls is all that and a bag of chips. In reality, it is a fantastic trip to what makes live theatre great. It makes us cry. It makes us laugh. We even become cheerleaders.
More importantly, Dreamgirls is at its best when it is able to lift the human soul.