CD Review: DREAMGIRLS, Original London Cast Recording
The hit West End revival of Dreamgirls is rumoured to be heading over to Broadway next year. In the meantime, fans on both sides of the pond can be content with this excellent double-CD cast album. Recorded live at London's Savoy Theatre, complete with audience reaction (rapturous during "And I Am Telling You"), it expertly captures a thrilling theatre experience.
Olivier Award winners Amber Riley and Adam J Bernard, as determined Effie and snake-hipped Jimmy respectively, are the standouts on stage, and so it proves on the recording, but what's also apparent is the strength and depth of this ensemble and Nick Finlow's funky yet rigorously marshalled band. Throughout, the precise harmonies and rich rendition of the score impress - "Steppin' To The Bad Side" is a particular pleasure.
Henry Krieger and Tom Eden's musical features a propulsive, story-driven score that still leaves room for dazzling digression. Both aspects are well served by the recording, satisfying as played-through drama - dialogue crisp in a nice sound balance - or a collection of hits.
Not every song works in the latter regard, but whether world-building (the opening "I'm Looking For Something, Baby") or character-based (Joe Aaron Reid revealing Curtis's ambition in the smooth stylings of "Cadillac Car"; Riley and Tyrone Huntley's poignant "I Miss You, Old Friend"), each has a clear purpose. It's not just the powerhouse ballads that delight here.
Those ballads are, however, in mighty fine form. "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" is spine-tingling not only in Riley's ripped-from-the-soul belting, but the agony of her soft, caressing - and unheeded - entreaties. "I Am Changing" has a beautiful yearning quality, while Liisi LaFontaine holds her own in "Listen", matching Riley in passion if not power.
As fellow Dreamette Lorrell, Ibinabo Jack gets a great showcase in "Ain't No Party". While more effective in the flesh - with Ibinabo relishing the opportunity to take centre stage and take roguish Jimmy to task - it's still a strong number. Similarly, Bernard is electrifying on stage, but there's plenty of his on-the-edge Jimmy energy here in the toe-tapping "Fake Your Way To The Top" and blistering rebellion in "The Rap".
Dreamgirls certainly benefits from the dazzling visuals of Casey Nicholaw's production - Gregg Barnes's costumes are a show in themselves - conjuring up the tough but seductive world of showbiz. But if you can't be there in person, this stellar recording should certainly help you dream it.
Dreamgirls Original London Cast Recording released by Sony Masterworks Broadway on 12 May - preorder now via Amazon