“Dreamgirls” first premiered on Broadway in 1981 and appeared on the big screen in 2006. Now more than a decade after the movie premiere, the musical has opened for a run through July 15 at Playhouse on the Square.
Playhouse on the Square’s production of “Dreamgirls” is directed by Jordan Nichols. Set in the 1960s, it follows the story of three young girls pursuing musical careers that begin in Detroit.
The cast performs classic songs such as “Dreamgirls,” “And I AM Telling You I’m Not Going” and “Steppin’ to the Bad Side.” The musical follows the original storyline closely. So if you enjoyed the movie, then you’re likely to love the musical.
Vibrant, energetic and loud describe the atmosphere at last Thursday’s fast-paced performance. The sold-out crowd was multi-generation, including young children and seniors.
Originally known as the Dreamettes, the Dreams vocal group features lead singer is Effie White, with backup singers Deena Jones and Lorrell Robinson. The Dreamettes are first introduced at an amateur night competition and then become backup singers for Jimmy “Thunder” Early. Dreamettes manager, Curtis, decides to let the group headline its own show and the trio is renamed the Dreams. After multiple disagreements Effie is replaced by Michelle Morris. It is not until the closing scene that all four girls are performing on stage together.
The musical showcases the glamour of the music industry. The set design and lighting draws the audience in with touches such as a simple table and chair on stage and “DREAM” in huge shining letters. There were plenty of eye-catching sequin dresses and, of course, wigs.
As soon as the production begins, the cast fills the theater with its energy. The show calls for audience interaction, especially during the opening scene. It’ll seem as if you’re actually at a competition clapping for performers and not watching a play.
Brandy Jones, who is a member of the “Dreamgirls” ensemble, says the crowd’s energy helps make the show.
“Every night is definitely a different burst of energy. We bring our own energy to the table but the audience makes the show in all honesty,” said Jones. “The laughs and claps from the crowd make us feel like we are doing something great on the stage. But energetic crowd or not, we still put on a great show.”
Some of the funniest moments come from scenes with Jimmy “Thunder” Early, who is played by Napoleon Douglas. He delivered an energetic performance with a comedic element that entertained the audience.
Solos by Breyannah Tillman, who plays Effie White, earned loud responses from the audience, especially during the singing of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.”
One of the more memorable scenes came during the firing of Jimmy when Lorrell, who is played by Zan Edwards, sings the words “Lorrell loves Jimmy.” Eager to sing, the audience jumped in and Zan found herself with a chorus.
As the second act starts, Deena’s character comes alive and takes center stage. Latisha Henderson, who is making her debut, plays Deena.
“This has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I absolutely loved binge-watching the movie ‘Dreamgirls’ when I was younger, so I knew once I saw that Playhouse was having auditions I couldn’t let it pass me by,” said Henderson. “I’m so grateful that I was chosen for the role as Deena. It’s a dream come true.”
Trisha Henderson, Latisha’s mother, says her favorite part of the musical is Deena standing alone at the top of the stairs and members of the ensemble are shouting her name.
“I am the proudest mom in the world. She has overcome so many obstacles,” Henderson said. “She’s had no experience acting. She taught herself to sing and dance.”
Each character added flavor to the show. The singing will make you long for the soundtrack. You might even want to watch the movie or maybe see this production again.
If you’re prepared to have the songs stuck in your head for the next few days, “Dreamgirls” is playing through July 15.
(Tickets range from $15- $40 and can be purchased online at the Playhouse on the Square website or in person at the box office.)