By the time you're reading this review, I will have seen Sonia Friedman's new production of Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre four times during the six weeks that the show has been running, so it's safe to say before we even begin that I am a massive fan of this show. I've loved Dreamgirls for over a decade now since I heard Jennifer Holliday's enthralling vocals on the original Broadway cast recording and this love still hasn't died. The show not only has some fantastic source material but is so packed full of star power that it flows over the edges. To break down what is really so fantastic about this production, I thought I'd share with you the three best things about Dreamgirls:
1. The Cast
Everyone has been raving about what a star Amber Riley is and they really do have reason for saying so. Effie White is a role that feels like it was written for Jones's effortless talent and vocal expertise; she glides over all the notes like she's singing the alphabet; she makes it sound so easy and it's her effortlessness that makes her portrayal so unique. But don't think that "effortlessness" means there's no power in her performance though, because her performance is a far cry from unemotional. In musical numbers like the iconic 'And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going' at the end of Act One, there isn't a single audience member who isn't on their feet applauding the power they'd just been hit with, radiating from Amber's body like a beacon of star power. And Riley isn't the only cast member with such impressive star power either. For what I think might be the first time in my life, I've witnessed a show where literally any of the cast could be billed as being the "star" and I would not be disappointed with the performance. Liisi LaFontaine is the best Deena I have ever heard or seen in my life with such a soft voice and an acting performance to match. The same has to be said about Ibinabo Jack as Lorrell who turns this underrated character into the lead she is meant to be: her performance of "Ain't No Party" near the top of Act One is a highlight of the show for sure.
The boys are also just as fantastic as the ladies. Joe Aaron Reid makes a wonderfully charming yet sinister Curtis Taylor Jr. in a breakout West End performance to be proud of, while Tyrone Huntley becomes the little brother you wish you had as Riley’s character Effie’s younger brother C.C. He recently took home an Evening Standard Award for his performance in Jesus Christ Superstar at Regent’s Park in the summer and you can see just why in this performance as well. Adam J Bernard makes the star male performance in the show though, as the hilarious and high energy Jimmy Early. This is his breakout role in the West End and it sure is going to make him a star.
2. The Music
This is probably the best part of the show overall for me. Henry Kreiger crafted a score full of back to back showstoppers when he wrote Dreamgirls over 35 years ago and that does not falter in this new production. My favourite song from the show has always, surprisingly, been “Move” which is sung by The Dreamettes at the very top of the show. It’s a fantastic example of how upbeat and infectious the music in this show can be and no matter if your favourite song is “Steppin To The Bad Side” or “One Night Only”, you can’t deny how catchy and feel-good these tunes are. I’ve been listening to them on repeat for over a decade now and I still find time to listen to the album over and over again on a daily basis all these years later; it really is that good.
3. The Costumes
Gregg Barnes is responsible for pretty much every costume from any hit show ever at this rate and his work on Dreamgirls is no exception. The staging for the piece – while feeling vast and big at some points – is extremely minimal and the thing that keeps that from seeming to be tacky and cheap are the incredible costumes. The Dreams are given some of the most glamorous and expensive looking gowns I have ever laid my eyes upon throughout the course of this show and it is something worthy of feasting your eyes upon. Capturing the glamour of Hollywood and the music industry in fashion is so important as it highlights the glitz of the stars and that is exactly what Barnes has done with Dreamgirls.
If you haven’t seen Dreamgirls yet, I urge you to book tickets immediately. I have not seen a “new” musical in the West End that was this good and infectious since… well, ever. If you miss out on this then you’d be a fool for doing so.
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