Following hot on the heels of first Memphis the Musical, then Motown the Musical, Dreamgirls is the third Broadway import in recent years to celebrate the history and sounds of the American music industry.
Inspired by sounds and stories of sixties musical icons such as The Supremes and James Brown, the musical charts the tumultuous rise of a fictional girl band in Illinois. The songbook is a celebration of early R&B music, with well-known songs including 'One Night Only' and 'And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going'. Amber Riley, the American actor and singer best known for playing Mercedes in musical sitcom Glee brings down the house as lead singer Effie White.
Despite palpable talent and star power, Effie is demoted to back-up singer and replaced by her blander-voiced, more conventionally beautiful bandmate Deena Jones (Liisi LaFontaine). Under the guidance of manipulative music mogul Curtis Taylor Jr. (played with charisma by Joe Aaron Reid) The Dreamettes become a proto pop group, making history for succeeding on the ‘White Charts’. The stardom that follows dismantles the group and undermines each singer’s original dream.
Thanks to a 2006 film adaptation starring none other than Beyoncé herself alongside singer Jennifer Hudson, the story is better known than most Broadway musicals. But the musical feels lighter than the film, with issues of race and drug addiction pushed to the background. Instead the full thrust of Dreamgirls on stage is performative flair and the result is unadulterated entertainment.
The Swarvoski-sponsored costumes are suitably sparkly, the transition from 60s to 70s is played out with the journey from bobs and shift dresses to flares and feather boas and the dance moves are consistently slick high octane.
Adam J. Bernard as R&B star Jimmy Early is pure James Brown charm, complete with vocals to match, wild moves and, as he likes to remind everyone, a whole lotta soul. All of The Dreamettes have the star power and talent to make the fictional band’s rise feel completely believable. But it is, fittingly and thanks to a stunning West End debut from Amber Riley, as overlooked member Effie who shines the brightest and gets the most rapturous standing ovation.
|What||Dreamgirls, London's Savoy Theatre review|
Savoy Court , Strand, London, WC2R 0ET | MAP
|Nearest tube||Charing Cross (underground)|
19 Nov 16 – 06 May 17, 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM
|Price||£18 - £71.40|
|Website||Click here to book via Culture Whisper and See Tickets|