"One of those shows that will leave you bursting with self-assurance"Review Rating: Reviewed by Laurel
There could have been no better choice of show to see on International Women’s Day than Dreamgirls. The story of a black girl group’s rise to fame in the segregated American south of the ‘60s, it’s a tale of empowerment, sisterhood, determination and sacrifice and if it doesn’t rouse something inside of you, you’re made of stone.
The London production welcome a new cast in November, with the iconic role of Effie White shared by three powerhouse actresses, Moya Angela, Marisha Wallace and Karen May. Arguably one of the most challenging roles in musical theatre, Effie has some of the most powerful numbers you’ll ever hear, both vocally and metaphorically. Jennifer Hudson’s Oscar-winning performance in the 2006 movie was a tearjerker and Amber Riley’s cover of And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going during her turn in Glee brought Effie - and the Dreamgirls soundtrack - to a whole new generation who may not have been aware of the original 1981 Broadway production.
Moya’s performance was spectacular, flawlessly executed with wit and poise, yet touchingly tender. It’s always a risk when you’re so familiar with the film that the show may not live up to expectations, but her Effie would most certainly give Hudson a run for her money. And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going is an anthem of devotion and defiance and I’m not ashamed to admit the tears were streaming down my face as the curtain fell.
It’s easy for the main character to overshadow their peers, but with an incredible - predominantly American - surrounding cast everyone has their moment in the spotlight. Brit Tosh Wanogho-Maud’s Jimmy Early was almost exhausting to watch, nailing as he did the sheer physicality and exuberance of the famously volatile and unpredictable character. Joe Aaron Reid’s Curtis Taylor Jr. may not have had the smarmy smirk of Jamie Foxx’s movie interpretation, but he undoubtedly had the audience cursing under their breath at his caddish ways, despite some pretty fantastic dance move and a voice of caramel. Brennyn Lark’s Deena was the yang to Effie’s yin, with a voice that defies her diminutive stature and Asmeret Ghebremichael depicted Lorrell beautifully, giving her more guts and gumption that one would expect.
It’s an extraordinary tale and one that isn’t so far from the truth, given the beginnings of girl groups like The Supremes. Dreamgirls is one of those shows that will leave you bursting with self-assurance, striding out of the theatre waving your programme high and singing at the top of your lungs. The new cast is spectacular and with tickets from £20 there’s no excuse not to.
Laurel reviewed Dreamgirls on Mon 09 Apr 2018