The national tour of Dreamgirls, currently playing at the Capitol Theatre, is exceptionally well produced and performed. It is an experience that is not to be missed.
Dreamgirls (music by Henry Krieger, book and lyrics by Tom Eyen, and additional material by Willie Reale) was nominated for 13 Tony Awards in 1982, winning 6, and came back into prominence recently with the 2006 release of its film adaptation (itself nominated for 8 Academy Awards, winning 2). The show chronicles the rise to prominence of a fictional female singing group in the 1960s and 1970s, first called the Dreamettes and later the Dreams.
The stage musical has some key differences from the film version, not the least of which being the vast amount of music that was cut for the film. Large portions of the musical are sung-through, which is a joy to listen to when performed by such gifted singers as the actors in this production.
Charity Dawson channels original Broadway actress Jennifer Holliday in a tour de force performance as Effie White. Jasmin Richardson shows off remarkable acting chops and a powerful singing voice as Deena Jones, and Mary Searcy's Lorrell Robinson has a crystal voice and plenty of opportunity to shine. As good as the three are on their own, their combined vocal power is explosive when their voices combine as the Dreams. The leading men, including Terrance Johnson as C.C. White, Aubrey Poo as Curtis Taylor, Jr., and Michael Jahlil as James "Thunder" Early, are equally impressive.
The production team for this tour has created a stellar, Broadway-quality production. And it's no wonder when you learn their credits.
Director/choreographer Robert Longbottom, who directed The Scarlet Pimpernel and Side Show on Broadway, has created staging and movement that flows naturally and engagingly. The choreography (also produced by the Emmy-nominated co-choreographer Shane Sparks) is a natural extension of the blocking that, refreshingly, is showy only when a song begs for it to be.
The projections, by Spider-Man: Turn of the Dark designer Howard Werner; set, designed by 10-time Tony nominated and 3-time Tony winning Robin Wagner (Hair, A Chorus Line, The Producers); lighting, designed by 8-time Tony nominated and 1-time Tony winning Ken Billington (Chicago, Sweeney Todd, The Drowsy Chaperone) work in tandem to create a clean look for the show. Rather than being overblown and overproduced, the projections are understated and work simply with the set and lighting to allow the actors to tell the story.
The costumes, designed by 12-time Tony nominated and 5-time Tony winning William Ivey Long (Chicago, Hairspray, The Producers) are simply sensational. Producing a range of constantly rotating looks for both men and women from the early 1960s to the late 1970s would be daunting enough, but Long's accomplishment is astounding when you factor in the need for both realistic everyday clothing and dazzling costumes for the characters' stage and television performances.
Anyone who is a fan of the film version of Dreamgirls absolutely must seize the fleeting opportunity to see this production of the stage version before it leaves Utah.
Dreamgirls plays the Capitol Theatre for a limited engagement through Sunday, February 10, 2013. For tickets, call ArtTix at 801-355-ARTS (2787) or visit www.arttix.org.
Photo Credit: Levi Walker