Review: DREAMGIRLS at Omaha Community Playhouse

Dreams are coming true at the Omaha Community Playhouse

Review: DANCE NATION Wins at BlueBarn Theatre

The dream team has assembled and the Omaha Community Playhouse has its next hit currently running with their production of Dreamgirls. Featuring music by Henry Krieger and lyrics and a book by Tom Eyen, Dreamgirls has been a smash hit since premiering on Broadway in December of 1981. Many fans today will remember the blockbuster hit of the same title that was released in 2006 and that brought music superstar Jennifer Hudson her first Academy Award. The story centers around a trio of singers called "The Dreamettes" and their rise to fame, as well as their eventual parting of ways. It is a show that lifts you up and sends you home humming and smiling with a renewed sense of joy.

Jim Othuse is back with yet another wonderful design, a true staple for the Omaha Community Playhouse. The set is simple and elegant, with a stage providing the backdrop for the entirety of the show and concert lighting creating the mood. Lindsay Pape's costumes are inspired callbacks that elicit responses of glee from members of the audience who might very well have worn those same clothes back in the 1960s, or at least know people who did.

Director Kathy Tyree set the bar high with this cast and crew. Her blocking is inspired and intentional, and her ability to draw genuine emotion from her performers is truly stunning. No words are said or sung without heart and a true sense of intention. And this music is not easy. Music Director Justin Payne and his orchestra had their work cut out for them and blow the roof off the theatre in the best ways. The cast produce some of the best vocals on the Omaha Community Playhouse stage. Add in exciting and just plain fun choreography from Broadway vet Ray Mercer, and this show is set up for success.

The show would be lost without a powerhouse trio leading the way as "The Dreamettes," and Tyree has certainly found that and more in her leading ladies, Zhomontee Watson, Karissa Denae Johnson, and Candace Gould, who play Effie, Deena and Lorrell, respectively. Gould sets the stage on fire with her stellar vocals during the act two number, "Ain't No Party," where she goes head-to-head with her not-the-commitment-type love interest, Jimmy. Johnson lights up the theatre as she takes over the spotlight in the "Dreamgirls" reprise and beautiful ballad, "You Are My Dream." And there's simply no other way to describe Watson's performance other than pure magic. Watson's Effie is grounded, strong, and yet vulnerable in the most heart wrenching ways, and her vocals soar in multiple numbers, most notably the iconic "(And I'm Telling You) I'm Not Going." The trios harmonies are tight and thrilling, and I only wish there were more.

Taking the stage opposite "The Dreamettes" are Jus B, Jordan Willis, and Vi Griffin, who play Curtis, Jimmy and C.C. respectively. Jus B has quickly become an Omaha Community Playhouse staple with his smooth vocals, and his Curtis is a highlight in his journey on this stage. Smooth and sure of himself, you see the man behind the mask in this portrayal, which takes the character to another level in bringing humanity to the forefront. Griffin brings a sweetness to C.C. that is impossible not to admire. C.C. is the songwriter of the group, as well as Effie's brother. His voice is beautiful and I only wish he had more to sing. Willis tore up the stage and had the audience in stitches the whole night with his charismatic Jimmy. And if his comedic acting wasn't enough, he has a voice that seem to be limitless. Carrying a bulk of the male lead vocals, he doesn't seem to tire or miss a note.

Turning in strong supporting performances are Anthony Haynes as Marty, the dismissed manager who gets a second chance when a new solo act appears on the scene; and Monica Weber as Michelle, a singer who joins "The Dreams" after a falling out in the group. Both bring an energy and strong vocal to their roles and scenes that enhances this already top tier production.

If you are a fan of the musical... Go see Dreamgirls. If you are a fan of the movie.... Go see Dreamgirls. If you love theater... Go see Dreamgirls. If you just want to have a fun night out and enjoy some exciting music and stellar vocals... Go see Dreamgirls. I guess what I'm trying to say is simply.... Go see Dreamgirls. That is assuming you can still get tickets. I guarantee you it will be one night well spent.

Photo Credit: Robertson Photography



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