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BWW Review: DREAMGIRLS, New Wimbledon Theatre

A soulful, sequinned and accomplished production

BWW Review: DREAMGIRLS, New Wimbledon Theatre

BWW Review: DREAMGIRLS, New Wimbledon Theatre Based loosely on the story of The Supremes, Dreamgirls originated on Broadway back in 1981 and went on to impress the West End a few years ago. Now on a UK tour, the show continues to sparkle.

The story follows the rise of the Dreamettes, a trio of female black singers in the 1960s, from the backstreets to fame and success. Their story is sprinkled with glitz and glamour, but does not shy away from the darker issues as their friendship and loyalties are pushed to the limit by a ruthless music industry and dark hints of racism.

Nicole Raquel Dennis takes on the role of Effie, replaced as the lead of the group, as she is viewed as not thin enough, pretty enough or light-skinned enough to appeal to a broader audience. Dennis gives Effie a demanding attitude and raw ambition who is a victim of the cruelties of the showbusiness world, while never becoming a victim herself.

'And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going' is a vocally tricky number, with great potential for the singer to shout, but Dennis proves it an impressive showcase for her talents. Her standout performance comes with the more subtle 'I Am Changing', which really showcases the light and shade in her voice. Her acting is also very good, showing her tendency to be rude and spiky, masking her internal insecurities.

Natalie Kassanga as Deena, needs to show a little more growth from the shyness of Act 1 to confidence and self-assurance as the group's lead singer in the second half of the show. However, her disco version of Effie's 'One Night Only' is infectious and her duet with Dennis of 'Listen' strikes a balance of each singer excelling individually, but also allowing the other to also shine.

Paige Peddie is a kind-hearted and strong-voiced Lorrell, who injects a welcome comedic element into the character. All performers can hold their own with strong vocals, but excel in their joint harmonies as a group.

The Dreamettes begin as backing singers to charismatic singer Jimmy Early, played with energy by Brandon Lee Sears. A certain level of mania is lacking, but his physical presence is obvious throughout and the chemistry between Lee Sears and Peddie's Lorrell is convincing.

The cold ambition of manager Curtis Taylor Jr is nicely captured by Dom Hartley-Harris, as he cruelly casts Effie aside in his quest for success, but occasionally lacks a little charisma and control of the big notes. Shem Omari James brings real warmth and humanity to the underwritten role of Effie's brother C.C.

Casey Nicholaw's direction and choreography remains as slick and tight as the West End show, with a brilliant ensemble who has dynamism and vitality that bounces off the stage. The Olivier and Tony award-winning designer Tim Hatley's set has been adapted well for a touring production and maintains the seamless transitions between watching the performances to a hectic backstage views, with a particularly visually impressive finale to the show.

Josh Marquette's hair design and Hatley's often bedazzling costumes track the passage of time, becoming more ornate and expensive, with some fantastically rapid changes.

With captivating staging, impeccable dance routines and excellent singing, this Dreamgirls tour is well worth tracking down.

Dreamgirls is at the New Wimbledon Theatre until 14 May, then touring

Photo Credit: Matt Crockett



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