Reviewed by Judy Richter
With tuneful music by Henry Krieger and a book and lyrics by Tom Eyen, "Dreamgirls" tells the story of three young Chicago women who call themselves the Dreamettes and who sing their way to Motown musical success, but not without some major bumps along the way.
Based on actual groups like the Shirelles and Supremes, the Dreamettes start with Effie Melody White (Miranda D. Lawson) singing the lead and with her brother, C.C. White (AeJay Mitchell) writing some of their songs.
However, their manager, Curtis Taylor Jr. (Anthony D. Jackson), dumps Effie not only as his lover but also as the lead singer, replacing her with Deena Jones (Janelle LaSalle). When Effie begins to rebel at her diminished role in what is now called the Dreams, Curtis dismisses her entirely. She responds with the defiant "(And I'm Telling You) I Am not Going," which brings down the house near the end of the first act.
The story goes on to detail the payola and other devious methods that Curtis uses to derail Effie's solo career in the second act.
Director Angela Farr Schiller, aided by associate director and choreographer Robyn Tribuzi, keeps the action moving swiftly, thanks also to the light tower-based set by Kelly Tighe. This BBB production is inspired by the original Broadway production directed by Michael Bennett. After premiering in 1981, it went on to win six Tony Awards and became a movie in 2006.
Although the large cast features fine performances throughout, some of the best come from Jackson as Curtis, Lawson as Effie and Dedrick Weathersby as James Thunder Early, a funky soul singer.
Sean Kana directs the fine orchestra. Kudos also to Margaret Toomey, whose costume designs become ever more glamorous and timely for the women.
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