DOMA Opens New Season and Dreamgirls with a Bang
Slick, sleek, glitzy best describe the new touring production of the 1981 runaway hit Dreamgirls. Making use of the latest technology, the sometimes glaringly bright show is in your face from the top and never eases its pace for a split second. Why the excess? Today's young audiences nurtured by MTV and the like demand it.
That is what I wrote 3 years ago of the new 2010 Dreamgirls pre-Broadway touring show at the Ahmanson Theatre. I recommended it, but was somewhat bothered by the excess. Not so with DOMA's new production! Read on!
DOMA's more traditional, more streamlined and highly intimate presentation, without all the technological glare, really delivers the goods, staying 100% true to the original 1981 Broadway concept and design, giving us the purity of early 60s music in all its glory. It's what's up front that counts, and DOMA's ultra-talented cast spark fireworks from top to bottom.
Constance Jewell Lopez as Effie has a terrific set of pipes and under Marco Gomez's tight, fast-faced direction, she, along with her partners Jennifer Colby Talton as Deena and Tyra Dennis as Lorrell, and later Tiffany Williams as Michelle Morris more than do justice to the thrilling score that incorporates all the vibrant sounds of '60s R&B and rock/pop.The entire company are great singers, one of the finest assets of DOMA Theatre Co.
What makes Dreamgirls so fascinating as a musical is that it comes close to opera with a book and musical score that blend together to maximum effect, moving all the character stories forward with an appealingly smooth style. And there are many stories to hold our attention. It's not only Effie and Deena who become rivals for the center spot, as with real-life Florence Ballard and Diana Ross in The Supremes, but there's also conflicts with the talented, egomaniac Jimmy "Thunder" Early (Keith Arthur Bolden) and his uneasy love for Lorrell (Tyra Dennis), Effie's betrayal by her lover/manager Curtis Taylor Jr. (Welton Thomas Pitchford) who makes a bigtime play for Deena, and Effie's brother C.C. White (Frank Andrus Jr.) who chooses success and money over family devotion. From the very beginning when the Dreamettes sing at the Apollo Theatre in New York, there's ruthlessness afoot as hustler Curtis, against promoter Marty's (Lorenzo T. Hughes) honest wishes, tampers with audience polls and causes the girls to lose to suit his own gainful plans. Curtis is perhaps the meanest hustler alive whose cry for change makes an enemy out of just about everyone with whom he comes in contact, especially Effie and later Deena, as she tries to strike out on her own. Another huge comparison to Diana Ross and her split from The Supremes and Berry Gordy Jr.! It is hardly an easy task to put all of these backstabbing tales comfortably into a stage script but somehow brilliantly creative Tom Eyen along with prolific composer Henry Krieger manage the impossible and come up with a vehicle that not only works efficiently but knocks our socks off in the process.
The entire ensemble are immensely and equally talented. Lopez, Talton, Dennis and Williams are wonderful together and in solo spots. Bolden as Jimmy Early will blow your mind. He sings, moves and sells every tune as if it were his last. Pitchford makes Curtis one mean dude, Andrus as C.C. has a terrific voice, and praise as well to Hughes who makes Marty a caring human being in the midst of the treachery that defines the music business from the 60s on up.
Rae Toledo's choreography sizzles, Michael Mullen's costumes are sumptuous, Amanda Lawson's simple set glittering and functional and Johnny Ryman's lighting design fits the rock concert-style-show to a tee.
DOMA's Dreamgirls is a heart-pounding musical dynamo that you will not want to miss. "Cadillac Car", "I'm Changing", "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" and "One Night Only", as presented by this astounding cast grab hold of you, pull you in and won't let go. You're hooked, but don't watch the 2006 movie first. It's majorly disappointing in spite of some good work. Dreamgirls , like its Apollo tribute within, was meant to be experienced live, so go! DOMA pulls out all the stops with tasteful moderation.