Like me you may have seen the original Broadway cast of Dreamgirls which opened in 1981 that won 6 Tony Awards and ran for four years. You also may have seen the star-studded 2006 film. So, the question remains, "Should I or shouldn't I see the revival of this landmark musical directed by Robert Longbottom?" The answer is an unqualified yes.
Longbottom has assembled a top notch team of collaborators including 5-time Tony Award winning costume designer William Ivey Long - who surely keeps the backstage seamstresses busy with his 580 costume designs reflecting 1960's and 1970's Motown glamour - incredible lighting by Ken Billington (Tony Award winner for Chicago and Disneyland's Fantasmic!), and clever though simple scenic design by three time Tony Award winner Robin Wagner, best known for his "theatricality of light." Wagner and Billington combine to use revolving walls that are, according to Longbottom, "technology driven," with the use of LED lights on five large panels. These panels are used as movie screens, cityscapes, and even television monitors throughout the production.
The choreography is obviously attempting to attract a younger audience with dances by Shane Sparks, Courtney Young, and Galen Hooks. (See the show's website, www.Dreamgirlsonstage.com for a sneak peak video on these inspired hip hop, lyrical and house dances).
Dreamgirls has so many impressive tunes, it would be enjoyable in a concert version. Composer Henry Krieger's "Listen," which was famously added to the film version of the musical starring Jennifer Hudson and Beyonce Knowles, has been added to this production as a duet with new lyrics.
But the key to its success, are the talented actors who sing, act, and dance their hearts out eight shows a week. The cover of the Playbill epitomizes the trio of singers who start out as the Dreamettes and then morph into the mega success of the "Dreams." The talented trio is played by of Moya Angela (Effie), Syesha Mercado (Deena), and Adrienne Warren (Lorrell).
But the one character I'll always remember is Chester Gregory who gets a chance to strut a la James Brown in the role of James "Thunder" Early. The number "Steppin' to the Bad Side" is especially riveting.
The ensemble deserves special praise for its incredible energy throughout the evening. I wish there were as many violins in the orchestra pit as there were depicted on stage though. Conductor Sam Davis has a great pit band under his baton.
The sound seemed to be a little muffled on occasion but I'm sure that will be worked out during the run which lasts until Dec. 27 before it heads to Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh from Dec. 29 to January 3. There is even a performance Christmas night.
Baltimore is the first city of a nationwide tour which began at the historic Apollo Theater in New York City. Following the tour, I predict it will be heading back to Broadway. So save the trip. Head to the Hippodrome and see it now.
For tickets, call 410-547-SEAT or visit www.BroadwayAcrossAmerica.com.
Next at the Hippodrome is Mel Brooks' Musical Young Frankenstein which runs January 12-24, 2010.
Volunteer ushers program returns to The Hippodrome: The Hippodrome Foundation has announced it is re-launching the Volunteer Usher Program at the Hippodrome Theatre in January 2010.
There is only one more usher training session remaining on Thursday, January 7, 2010 at 6:30 p.m. Registration is necessary. Volunteers can make a once a week commitment or volunteer as an Alternate list usher committing to work at least one time a month. For more information, send an email to email@example.com or call 410-752-2922.