BWW Review: Village Has Your DREAMGIRLS, Boys. And They'll Make You Happy!
Back in the day when I was a mere fledgling musical theater geek I was introduced to the show "Dreamgirls". You might say this was my gateway cast album that put me on the path toward the musical addict I am today as I practically wore out the CD. So you'll understand if I'm a little picky about this show. I mean, how could someone live up to the magic of Jennifer Holliday, Sheryl Lee Ralph and LorEtta Devine? Since then I've seen a few productions that have all been OK but never got me there until now. And true, you can't ever really compare with the originals but the current production from Village Theatre does a mighty fine job.
Mirroring the stories of R&B groups of the 60's and 70's, the show follows the young girl group, The Dreamettes, Effie, Deena, and Lorrell (Angela Birchett, Lauren Du Pree, and Alexandria Henderson) as they enter a talent contest at the Apollo Theatre. They blow the audience away but don't win but do catch the eye of wanna-be manager Curtis (John Devereaux) as well as headliner James "Thunder" Early (Nathaniel Tenenbaum). Curtis works his way into their lives as their manager and gets them a job singing backup for Early. But when it's time to strike out on their own Curtis decides the pretty Deena should replace the Rubenesque Effie as the lead singer. Deena eventually becomes a star while Effie becomes more and more bitter about being overlooked until things come to a boil.
Yes, it sounds an awful lot like the story of Diana Ross and The Supremes but the authors have long contended it also sounds like many other stories too like Martha and the Vandellas and the Shirelles. Whatever the case it's a stirring story with some of the most amazing R&B written for Musical Theatre complete with several show stoppers such as "And I'm Tellin' You" and "I Am Changing". And I've long since felt that if you can sit still during either of those numbers then the performers aren't doing their jobs or you're dead.
Well luckily no one could sit still especially during the end of Act One killer "And I'm Tellin' You" as Birchett built the arc of the song and her character beautifully culminating in a soul shattering, bring down the house moment that I'm sure people could feel two towns over. Du Pree and Henderson too bring an amazing arc to their characters as they go from innocence to Divas and beyond. Devereaux has a great voice but I felt was a bit static in the role of this conniving manager. And I must call out Tenenbaum who killed it as Jimmy Early. From the moment he set foot on stage and opened his mouth he owned that role and was a complete delight.
With some wonderful staging from director Steve Tomkins, outstanding choreography from Daniel Cruz, fantastic music direction from R.J. Tancioco, gorgeous costumes from Karen Ann Ledger, and of course that cast the show is one not to miss. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give Village Theatre's "Dreamgirls" a shaken by the diva YAY. Whether you've never seen a production or are a hard-core fan of the show like me, you're bound to love what these Dreamgirls have to offer.
"Dreamgirls" performs at Village Theatre in Issaquah through July 2nd and then moves to their Everett location running July 7th through the 30th. For tickets or information contact the Issaquah box office at 425-392-2202 or the Everett box office at 425-257-8600 or visit them online at www.villagetheatre.org.