Want an evening of top-notch entertainment? Lauren Kennedy directs the answer to your Dreams!
Theatre Raleigh’s Hot Summer Nights production of Dreamgirls has excellent singing, acting, and dancing (with choreography by Abbey O’Brien), a superb set (designed by Chris Bernier), costumes to-die-for (designed by Denise Schumaker), and first-rate musical accompaniment (directed by Brian Phoebus). Plus, the sound (by Eric Collins) and lights (by Thomas Mauney) both add to the total delight!
With book and lyrics by Tom Ever and music by Henry Krieger, Dreamgirls follows a trio’s rise to stardom, sharing glimpses into the artists’ personal struggles, along with the necessary behind-the-scenes manipulations that are part of their odyssey on the road to fame and success.
We first meet The Dreamettes backstage at an amateur contest at The Apollo. It’s the early 1960’s, and the talented trio hopes that winning the contest will lead to their “big break.” They don’t win; and while the bigbreak eludes them, they do get an offer to sing backup for solo R&B artist Jimmy “Thunder” Early (Christian Thompson).
The opening scene is a joy to watch, as the audience sees the action entirely from backstage — that is, we are watching the backs of the performers as they perform to an imaginary audience in front of us. The scene sets the stage for the rest of the performance.
The Dreamettes are Effie White (Brittany Walters), Deena Jones (Alexis Sims), and Lorrell Robinson (Dorian McCorey). We also meet Effie’s brother C.C. White (Jade Arnold), who writes their music and used-car salesman-turned-promoter Curtis Taylor, Jr. (Lawrence Street), who becomes the trio’s manager.
Effie has been the trio’s lead singer, but Curtis wants her to sing backup to Deena’s lead vocals. Effie’s responds, “I don’t sing backup.” This statement foreshadows problems to come when Effie is forced to do just that. Effie’s brother C.C. and the trio’s new promoter Curtis help convince Effie and Jimmy that the arrangement will be in everyone’s best interest.
After the girls’ stint backing up Jimmy Early, Curtis changes the trio’s name to The Dreams. He also rearranges their roles: Deena will now sing lead, Effie will join Lorrell as backup, and he tampers with C.C.’s musical compositions, all to bring them fame. But at what cost?
The show includes standout vocals and live music. Brittany Walters “What About Me” was a show-stopper. Christian Thompson steals the show as a James Brown-esque performer, strutting and dancing through his performance; and Gil Faison was spot-on as a talent agent.
On July 8th, there were some opening-night hiccups with the microphones and a few misplaced stage lights. Also, it would have been great for the dancers to have a little more elbow room to move. However, all-in-all, it was a solid show.
When was the last time you found yourself, at a show, making a mental list of people to whom you want to recommend it? Dreamgirls is that good!
SECOND OPINION: July 10th Raleigh, NC Triangle Arts and Entertainment review by Susie Potter: http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2015/07/rustic-and-charming-dreamgirls-is-a-hit/; July 9th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article26871265.html; July 8th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/dreamgirls/Event?oid=4539609; July 8th Raleigh, NC WNCN interview of Laurence E. Street, conducted by Valonda Calloway and Alex Butler for “My Carolina Today”: http://wncn.com/2015/07/08/dreamgirls-comes-to-duke-energy-center/; and May 13th New York, NY Playbill.com preview by Andrew Gans: http://www.playbill.com/news/article/lauren-kennedy-will-direct-dreamgirls-for-theatre-raleigh-season-announced-349047.
Theatre Raleigh presents DREAMGIRLS at 8 p.m. July 10, 2 and 8 p.m. July 11, 3 p.m. July 13, 8 p.m. July 15-17, 2 and 8 p.m. July 18, 3 p.m. July 19, 8 p.m. July 22-24, 2 and 8 p.m. July 25, and 3 p.m. July 26 in the Sara Lynn and K.D. Kennedy, Jr. Theater in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
TICKETS: $27 ($25 students, seniors 65+, and active-duty military personnel).
BOX OFFICE: 866-811-4111, email@example.com, or https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/939885.
GROUP RATES (10+ tickets): 919-832-9997 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SHOW: http://www.theatreraleigh.com/2015-season/ and http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/event/dreamgirls-5574.
PRESENTER: http://www.theatreraleigh.com/, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Theatre-Raleigh/349124511834045, and https://twitter.com/TheatreRaleigh.
NOTE: Theatre Raleigh rates this show PG-13 (due to mild language and adult content).
Dreamgirls (1981 Broadway musical): http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?id=3192 (Internet Broadway Database) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreamgirls (Wikipedia).
Study Guide: https://grandtheatre.com/atk/uploads/Education/Dreamgirls_Study_Guide.pdf (The Grand Theatre of London, Ontario).
Henry Krieger (music): http://www.henrykrieger.com/ (official website), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=12011 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Krieger (Wikipedia).
Tom Eyen (book and lyrics): http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=8902 (Internet Broadway Database) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Eyen (Wikipedia).
Dreamgirls (2006 film): http://www.dreamworks.com/dreamgirls/main.html (official website), http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/641880/Dreamgirls/ (Turner Classic Movies page), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0443489/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreamgirls_%28film%29 (Wikipedia).
Lauren Kennedy (director and artistic director of Theatre Raleigh): http://www.laurenkennedy.com/ (official website), http://laurenkennedynews.blogspot.com/ (her blog), http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=70340 (Internet Broadway Database), https://www.facebook.com/slaurenkennedy (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/slaurenkennedy (Twitter page), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lauren_Kennedy (Wikipedia).
Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.