"Dreamgirls," the Tony Award-winning musical which arrived on Broadway in 1981, opened last weekend on the stage of the Elizabeth Wallace Theatre at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina on Hilton Head Island.
And it is filled with everything we look forward to in a real musical experience. The entire production is simply sumptuous and loaded with exciting, vibrant and colorful performances by a gifted and talented cast.
Our Hilton Head production is based on the original Broadway show directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett with book and lyrics by Tom Eyen and music by Henry Krieger. The knock-out original costumes are by Theoni V. Aldredge with additional costumes by our own Jennifer Correll -- and to say that they are spectacular would be the understatement of the year.
Casey Colgan -- who has such a long attachment for Hilton Head, generally, and the arts center, specifically -- directed and choreographed "Dreamgirls" in the most artistic and sensitive way. We see his touch everywhere. From the glimmer of an idea to the gathering of the cast, to the honing of their talents and the flow of the show.
You all know the story about the fictional hit girl group of the 1960s and '70s, the Dreams. And you remember it's based kind of referentially on the real lives of three young, black singers who aspire to musical success and stardom.
Many think, when they hear "Dreamgirls," that it is specifically about The Supremes or The Shirrelles, or several other rhythm and blues performers. Actually, the show is a kind of blend of some of the defining characters of several of the members of those well-known groups. Just remember that this particular threesome, wants, more than anything, to become those glamorous superstars.
Oh, and that their manly associate, James "Thunder" Early, who many think of as a kind of James Brown, wants the very same.
This emotional and dramatic story is filled with up-close and personal glimpses at what it takes to bring that about and how it affects their lives, their families, their friendships, and their careers and we in the audience are completely involved in moments.
The success of the production is directly related, of course, to the cast, and the happy news is that this cast is right on the mark. How you will enjoy the performances of this professional and polished group as you follow and keep track of the Dreams and those who support them on their journey to stardom.
Anita Welch, a powerhouse actress and singer, appears as Effie, the lead singer. She catches our attention and never lets it go. She's amazing -- show-stopping, really -- in "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," and in the incredible "I Am Changing" in the second act. Of course she adds her voice and her presence throughout, but remember to look and listen particularly for "One Night Only" and "Family."
There is more about Effie which I must pass along right now, and which you'll note at the end of the second act. Here is this amazing opportunity for Effie, whom we have seen in a particular kind of harsh light, to join in an emotional duet with Deena (Caitlainne Rose Giurreri) in "Listen." The softness of her new beginning is striking and her performance offers amazing contrast to the character which she presented earlier.
The first act introduces us to the other brilliant leads as they present themselves through these vocally and emotionally powerful characters. Pilin Anice as Lorrell, Gurreri as Deena, Rashad Naylor as Jimmy and Jarod Scott as Curtis are right on the mark. Extending the impact of the star-making production are the supporting leads: Damien Deshaun Smith as CC, who is also the dance captain; Jasmin Richardson as Michelle; Chadwick Torence Adams as Wayne; Kyle Scatliffe as Marty; and Anthony Laguardia as Dave.
In Act One, look forward to "Steppin' to the Bad Side" with Curtis, CC, Wayne, Lorrell, Effie, Deena and company. It is one of those moments. By this time, the audience completely drawn into the intricacies of the story. These three young women want a career that will make them famous, no matter what. You'll love "Move (You're Steppin' on My Heart)" with Effie, Deena and Lorrell. Then enter the rockin' and sockin' Jimmy, who has, as I mentioned, similar goals. It hardly gets any more entertaining than "Fake Your Way to the Top."
The story begins to wrap up with "Hard to Say Goodbye, My Love," with Deena, Lorrell and Michelle, and closes dramatically with the final and brilliantly staged "Dreamgirls" with Effie, Deena, Lorrell and Michelle.