In January, Musical Cyberspace is going to work through a chain of musicals. This is how it works: each day I will discuss, in brief, a musical linked to the previous day’s musical by some kind of common ground. It follows then, that if you – dear reader – liked the previous day’s show, then you might enjoy the current day’s show. Comments, as alway, are welcome!
If you like Memphis, then you might like Dreamgirls.
The link between these two shows is perhaps one of the clearest we’ve had this month. Memphis and Dreamgirls cover similar thematic territory, with certain points in regard to the history of popular music sung by African-Americans brought to the fore in the narrative of each. Both shows also fierce leading ladies and the creation of Felicia owes something to the influence of Effie and Deena. The other neat little tie between the two shows is that both are loosely based on real-life stories, with the names of those involved altered just enough to avoid the trouble that an outright depiction might have brought.
Dreamgirls is the story of Effie, Deena and Lorrell, three singers with a dream of making it big in the music industry. Effie is the driving force and has the biggest voice of the group and makes all the calls until the shady Curtis Taylor, Jr, takes over management of the group. Taylor starts affairs with both Effie and Deena, then makes Deena lead singer of the group and eventually dismisses a pregnant and moody Effie from the group. Effie’s life falls apart, but she slowly puts things back together… and as that happens, Curtis’s actions come back to haunt him as Deena realises the kind of man he really is. Highlights include “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”, “One Night Only”, “Dreamgirls”, “I Am Changing” and “It’s All Over”.
Dreamgirls might be known to many thanks to the high profile film starring Jennifer Hudson as Effie, Beyonce Knowles as Deena and Anika Noni Rose as Lorrell, with a cast that also included Eddie Murphy and Jamie Foxx. But before that, Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen’s show was a smash hit on the stage, directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett, with an electric Jennifer Holliday as the original Effie. That original stage show is also held together by a great deal more music than what remained in the film – indeed, it is music that holds the stage together and the film never quite negotiated how to bridge the gap between speaking and singing was once almost all of the linking material has been cut and replaced with dialogue. Recent tours have lamentably fiddled with the score to incorporate “Listen” from the film (with a simply awful new set of lyrics), which is a pity. Even so, Dreamgirls has a great score and the show will transport you to the whirlwind era of R&B acts like The Supremes, The Shirelles, James Brown and Jackie Wilson – without naming a single one of those groups.
So, now it’s time to share your thoughts on Dreamgirls. And what shows would you suggest to fans of this show? See which one we’ll feature here tomorrow…