London Theatre Review: Dreamgirls

Date Posted: 02/02/2017

Rachel Bailey gives Dreamgirls five big gold sparkly stars after she went to review the production at the Savoy Theatre on the Strand.

A standing ovation at the end of the first act was enough for me to predict that Dreamgirls is going to be in the West End for a long time. People around me were cheering and in some cases (like mine) crying as the character of Effie White, played by Marisha Wallace, bellowed out the last few poignant lines to the song And I am Telling You I’m Not Going.

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been looking forward to seeing Amber Riley of Glee fame take on the role of Effie White (Riley has been cast as the lead Effie actress, while Wallace is her understudy). I’ve been a fan of Riley for a long time and was excited to see her on stage.

Yet the shallow disappointment I felt at her absence was quickly displaced by something close to hysteria when Marisha Wallace opened her mouth and started to sing. She is amazing. She did not slip-up once, and her vocal abilities are off the scale, especially in songs like I Am Changing and Listen.

Dreamgirls opened on Broadway in 1981, and was adapted into a film in 2006 that starred the likes of Jennifer Hudson, Beyoncé Knowles and Jamie Foxx. It is a story about show business, and the highs and lows that come with it.

Dreamgirls

Pictured: Liisi LaFontaine and Dreamgirls cast members. (Photo credit: Brinkhoff Mögenburg)

It’s loosely based on the successes of musical acts like The Supremes, The Shirelles, and James Brown, and for this reason I was slightly concerned that Dreamgirls might be too similar to Motown the Musical, another recent addition to the West End’s array of soulful sparkly productions.

However, the question ‘is there room for both these big scale productions in the West End?’ was quickly answered. While the musical style is similar, and there is a time period cross over, the productions are very different.

Motown the Musical is a tribute to an era of changing musical styles and racial political unrest, while Dreamgirls is a fictional story covering matters like family, what it is to be a diva, the shallow nature of show business, and above all, how to stay true to yourself.

Dreamgirls, which has already had it's booking period extended, focuses on the lives of The Dreamettes – three black female singers called Deena, Lorrell and Effie.

Deena, played by Liisi LaFontaine, and Lorrell, played by Ibinabo Jack, are equally as strong in their performances as Marisha Wallace. The three complement each other every step of the way, and each have their own moments in the spotlight.

The three female voices sound amazing together, and if you’re someone who’s impressed by jaunty complex harmonies, you’ll love this. Move (You're Steppin' on My Heart) and Heavy will have your toes tapping in no time.

Dreamgirls

Pictured: Ibinabo Jack, Liisi LaFontaine and Amber Riley in Dreamgirls. (Photo credit: Brinkhoff Mögenburg).

True talent and most of the musical’s humour comes in the form of Adam J Bernard who plays failing superstar Jimmy Early.

He effortlessly falls into the splits, moonwalks across the stage with ease, belts out powerful tunes while gyrating like there’s no tomorrow, and portrays Jimmy Early much like actor Eddie Murphy does in the film version. I was very impressed and would say he was my personal favourite in the cast.

Other Dreamgirls highlights for me include the quick-moving set that represents stages, dressing rooms and recording studios; an unnaturally large collection of wigs; and quick costume changes that mark the passing of time. It looks like the Dreamgirls creative team have pulled out all the stops to make this show as great as it is, as has Casey Nicholaw, director and choreographer. Bravo to all involved.

I might go as far to say that Dreamgirls is the best West End production I’ve ever seen. The story is all about music, and boy, does Dreamgirls put the word music into musical. If you’re going to see one show this year, make it this one. I promise you won’t regret it.

Dreamgirls is currently booking at the Savoy Theatre in London until October. Group rates are available when booking for ten or more people.

www.dreamgirlswestend.com

Lead image picture credit: Brinkhoff Mögenburg

facebook twitter