ALHAMBRA THEATRE & DINING REVIEW
A DUAL CRITICS REVIEW BY DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
Jacksonville’s Alhambra Theatre opened the Motown-inspired musical, “Dreamgirls” on April 12, 2017. It will run through May 21 at 12000 Beach Boulevard. If you want to see a show loaded with terrific voices, don’t miss this entertaining musical. For reservations, call (904) 641-1212 or visit alhambrajax.com.
“Dreamgirls,” with book and lyrics by Tom Eyen and music by Henry Krieger, opened on Broadway in 1981, ran for over 1,500 performances, was nominated for thirteen Tony Awards, and won six. The show mirrors the rise of The Supremes and lead singer Diana Ross, one of the most successful R&B groups of all time. However, don’t expect a docudrama; names, characters, locations and details have been changed.
The story is that of three young talented African-American women, Effie White, (Post to Post Links II error: No post found with slug "Melessie Clark"), Deena Jones (Mandi Jo John), and Lorrell Robinson (Alexis Tidwell), singers from Chicago, who have formed the a group hoping to make it to the top. During an amateur night competition at Harlem’s famous Apollo Theatre, the group sings a song written by Effie’s brother C.C. White (Jereme Raickett), but doesn’t win a prize. However, they do meet handsome slick-talking car salesman Curtis Taylor, Jr. (Peter Jackson), who becomes their manager and talks them into going on the road as backup singers for an R&B star. The group was originally named “The Dreamettes,” which was shortened to “The Dreams” as they became more well known.
“Dreamgirls” gives us an idea of what the world of entertainment was like in that past era. Payola — paying disc jockeys for their selections during radio broadcasts — was a cost of business. Additionally, it was often difficult for black groups to get hotel bookings, no matter how talented the performers.
Effie was initially the group’s lead singer, but Curtis soon became enamored with Deena, and promoted her as the featured vocalist. Eventually, Effie responds to being pushed aside by leaving; and is replaced by Michelle Morris (Linzy Lauren).
This is mainly a musical, and has some twenty-five songs sung by one of the best casts we have ever heard on this stage. Everyone in the cast of sixteen could belt out the music. Musical Director Cathy Murphy Giddens, Director/Producer Tod Booth, and Choreographer James Kinney have produced a show that could be on Broadway right now, it is so good. (Of note: the musical is presently in revival in London, and is reportedly headed for Broadway next season).
All the action takes place in a nightclub setting on an open stage. A video device high above the stage keeps the audience apprised of changes in locations.
The Costume Crew (Camala Pitts and Dorinda Quiles) have captured the era with gorgeous gowns for the ladies and snazzy suits for the men.
Judging by the curtain call applause, a crowd favorite was David Berry with his funny and bawdy James Brown imitations as James “Thunder” Early.
The actors in featured roles include Bryon Willis as Marty, Jimmy’s manager, and Anthony Mincey as Wayne, Jimmy’s producer.
Ensemble members rounded out the cast and were constantly on and off stage in a number of roles including TV announcers and backup singers and dancers. They included Timothy Ellis, Samuel Brown, Kurt McCall, Shanta Jones, Ebony Murray, Savannah Roy, and Jamil Abdur-Rahman.
We will let you discover for yourself what happens to the divas of “The Dreams” and the many other characters whose hopes, talents, and lives intersect when you see “Dreamgirls.”