Review Roundup: DREAMGIRLS in the West End - NYT Weighs In

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The long-awaited UK premiere of Dreamgirls opened on Wednesday 14 December at the Savoy Theatre in London, 35 years after originally opening on Broadway. The New York Times has just had the opportunity to weigh in on the production, check out what critic Ben Brantley had to say!

American actress and singer Amber Riley stars as 'Effie White' and is joined in Dreamgirls by Liisi LaFontaine as Deena Jones and Ibinabo Jack as Lorrell Robinson making up the soulful singing trio 'The Dreams'. Joe Aaron Reidplays Curtis Taylor Jr, Adam J. Bernard plays Jimmy Early, Tyrone Huntley plays C.C. White,Nicholas Bailey plays Marty and Lily Frazer plays Michelle Morris with Ruth Brown and Karen Mav alternating the role of Effie White at performances when Amber Riley is not scheduled to perform.

Dreamgirls transports you to a revolutionary time in American music history. Dreamgirls charts the tumultuous journey of a young female singing trio from Chicago, Illinois called 'The Dreams', as they learn the hard lesson that show business is as tough as it is fabulous, and features the classic songs 'And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going', 'I Am Changing', 'Listen' and 'One Night Only'.

Let's see what the critics had to say!


Ben Brantley, The New York Times: Ms. Riley exudes the casual, instinctive authority of one to the proscenium born. All she has to do is widen her eyes, purse her lips and then open her mouth to emit a radiant cascade of sound, and theatergoers are all but fainting in the aisles...This "Dreamgirls" isn't subtle, and it doesn't have the iconoclastic impact of Michael Bennett's original Broadway staging. But it makes a convincing case for this portrait of a Supremes-like singing group as an enduring, crowd-rousing entertainment with a terrific pastiche score.

Johnny Oleksinski, New York Post: Brits are going bonkers for the sensational West End revival of "Dreamgirls," the R&B musical at the Savoy Theatre. Director Casey Nicholaw's emotionally infectious new production of the show - a fictional "Behind the Music" of a girl group reminiscent of the Supremes - bursts with joy, desire and ferocious passion. Nicholaw ("Book of Mormon") has staged the musical with unrelenting momentum and a sublime sparkle.

Lyndsey Winship, The Guardian: From the first swish of a lime-green, sequinned fishtail skirt to the megawatt smiles of ambitious girl group the Dreamettes and the shiny suits of their manager, a former Cadillac salesman, Dreamgirls is a musical full of sparkle. It's less about the grit and sweat of the struggle to the top, more a fantastically entertaining ride on the showbiz rollercoaster, accompanied by some brilliantly belting voices.

Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph: Without question, Riley is the biggest reason to buy a ticket: she makes even the more ordinary numbers (music by Henry Krieger, lyrics by Tom Eyen) sound like show-stoppers and when she reaches the first half's absolute belter, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going", packed with hurt, defiance and soulful passion, she has the audience rising to applaud her. What a voice!

Douglas Mayo, British Theatre: After 30 years of waiting, Dreamgirls has arrived in London. The months of eager anticipation are over and tonight Amber Riley and the cast of this incredible musical blew the roof off London's Savoy Theatre.

Dom O'Hanlon, London Theatre: It may have taken 35 years to reach the West End but there's no denying that Dreamgirls has certainly been worth the wait, exploding onto the Savoy stage with an unbridled megawatt energy that can be felt across London. Frank Rich's original New York Times review described the show as a defining moment of Broadway history, commenting that a "seismic emotional jolt" had been felt by the entire audience. There is no doubt that this same jolt is currently being felt multiple times per performance thanks to a knock-out cast, tight band and swift direction that makes this an undeniable musical theatre phenomenon.

Mark Shenton, The Stage: London has had to wait 35 years for the arrival of the Broadway hit Dreamgirls - but it has been worth the wait. While Michael Bennett's original 1981 staging remains indelible - in my memory, one of the greatest Broadway productions I've ever seen - another Broadway hoofer turned director/choreographer Casey Nicholaw both respects and amplifies some of its thrilling innovations.

Demetrious Matheou, Hollywood Reporter: Dreamgirls has been a long time coming to the West End. But 35 years after its Broadway premiere and a decade after Bill Condon's Oscar-winning movie whetted Brit appetites, the show proves that in the right hands it really is worth waiting for. Director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw's zestful, spectacularly entertaining and at times overwhelmingly stirring production is irresistible.

Tufayel Ahmed, Newsweek: Musical theater roles, by nature, are borrowed, not owned; a performer might put their flourishes on a part, they might even win an award, but there is a tacit understanding that the character will eventually be passed on to the next performer to make their own. Dreamgirls' Effie White, originated by Jennifer Holliday on Broadway in 1981, and revitalized for the big screen by Jennifer Hudson in 2006, is the exception to this rule. The Jennifers have both left such an indelible mark on Effie that Amber Riley's most earnest effort in a new London production of the musical struggles in comparison.

Sarah Crompton, What's On Stage: Dreamgirls is not my kind of musical, since my basic taste runs to sophisticated and small scale. This is huge, incredibly noisy and with the emotional impact of a juggernaut. But I couldn't stop smiling with pleasure all the time I was watching it.

Aliya Al-Hassan, Broadway World: For UK audiences, Dreamgirls will be more familiar from the critically acclaimed 2006 film, but incredibly, the iconic musical started life on Broadway all the way back in 1981. The UK debut of the stage show has been a long time coming, but is absolutely worth the wait.

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