Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.
Friday, 24 February 2017
A new Dreamgirls
Wow - what a show: non-stop singing, dancing and more costume changes than one can count, plus a diva in the making, as the 1981 musical DREAMGIRLS finally gets a London production, with a show-stopping turn by Amber Riley (we loved her as Mercedes in GLEE) as Effie, the lead singer of the girl group who is side-lined and finally ousted in favour of the prettier and slimmer Deena, as that girlgroup becomes famous in the late sixties and early seventies. The period is caught nicely here, as soul and r'n'b cross over from black music to mainstream, that era when Tamla, Stax, Atlantic etc hit their golden era.
The musical follows the career of The Dreamettes, a black girl trio from
based on The Supremes, who rise to fame and fortune during the 1960s. But not
before their ambitious manager, Curtis Taylor Jr – a Detroit used car salesman
turned Svengali – has renamed them The Dreams and replaced the ferociously
talented and feisty Effie White as both lead singer and the lover in his bed
with her backup colleague and childhood chum, Deena Jones. She’s a more svelte
and malleable proposition, whose prettiness and smoother sound Curtis reckons
is likelier to appeal to the cross-over audience and television-viewing
record-buyers he’s determined to conquer. It’s a powerful story of how music can sell its soul to
avarice and about the artistic compromises forced on black composers and
performers if they wanted to swim in the mainstream.
This show has it all. Amber is sensational and of course her huge number "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" raises the roof - standing ovation of course. Having seen Aretha and Barbra in their young prime (Aretha in 1968 and '70, Barbra in the London FUNNY GIRL in 1966) I can confirm Amber is the real deal. The whole team work non-stop and the other numbers like "Steppin' to the bad side" get them all moving, as well as the different versions of "One Night Only".
Michael Bennett of course created the original show which featured Jennifer Holiday (whose albums I liked a lot), Jennifer Hudson and Beyonce did the film, and now Amber and Joe Aaron Reid (as manager Curtis) and Adam J Bernard as the James Brown like singer, now lead the London cast 35 years after it first opened on Broadway, and ten years after the movie, which I have now lined up to see this week.