If you’re looking for a dazzling rollercoaster of a musical look no further. Dreamgirls, directed by Casey Nicholaw (Aladdin and The Book of Mormon) is showing at London’s beautiful Savoy Theatre. It ticks all the right boxes from its classic showbiz storyline to its star-spangled outfits and the impassioned soulful voices of this talented cast.
Dreamgirls is loosely based on the aspirations and rise of American R&B acts such as The Supremes and The Shirelles. Tom Eyen’s book and a sung through score by Henry Krieger, doesn’t quite hit the same chord as the old soul classics we know and love but makes up for it in bucket loads with its raw energy and some catchy numbers.
Dreamgirls first premiered on Broadway in 1981, coming to the London stage in February 2016. The widely known 2006 film version starred amongst others Beyoncé, Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy.
The story, set in 1962 follows a young female singing trio from Chicago called ‘The Dreamettes’ who enter into a talent competition at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem New York which launches their road to success. They go on to become ‘The Dreams’, which by 1972 is the most successful girl group in the country. However the tough rigours of the music industry take them through their paces and their powerful lead vocalist Effie White gets the elbow, as she isn’t quite as glamorous as her counterparts.
Effie is played by three different vocalists and was performed on my visit with a raw honesty and extraordinary power and energy by gifted singer Marisha Wallace. Producer Sonia Friedman said: “The thrill of Dreamgirls is to experience the brilliance of the human voice. Effie White is arguably the biggest sing in musical theatre history, which is why we have cast three extraordinary vocalists to play this iconic role.”
Effie is a tough cookie in an uncompromising profession, whose only weakness is to fall in love with puppet master Curtis Taylor Jr portrayed exceptionally well by Joe Aaron Reid, whose suave presence and compelling vocals make him standout. Curtis has his eye on fellow Dreamette Deana Jones (perfectly pitched by Brennyn Lark), only to leave Effie broken hearted.
The show gains momentum as their showbiz journey goes from rags to riches and relationships are put to the test.
Greg Barnes’s magnificent costumes make their impact notably opening with some girls in some wonderfully sparkly fishtail dresses, which set the scene superbly, along with Michael Bennett’s glitzy set which has a slick filmic feel to it.
Asmereet Ghebremichael plays the sassy, yet the insecure baby of the group Lorrell, who falls for swivel-hipped superstar Jimmy Early (with a great performance from Tosh Wanogho-Maud) who she is forever trying to tie down.
Director Casey Nicholaw has created a slick and visual treat, it lacks a strong narrative, but its gutsy performances and soul-stirring vocals makes it an overwhelming crowd pleaser.
So whether you are a musical lover or just fancy a great night out in London’s West End Dreamgirls could be just the ticket.