MUSICAL REVIEW: Dreamgirls ★★★★
The Savoy Theatre, London
Saturday 24th June 2017
Originally a Broadway musical which opened in 1981, Dreamgirls tells the story of the all African-American female trio ‘The Dreamettes’, who comprise of Effie White and best friends Deena Jones and Lorrell Robinson, in their dream of become a successful trio in the world of music. For the current West End run, Glee star Amber Riley has taken on the role of Effie White, and after watching her performance of ‘And I’m Telling You’ at the Whatsonstage and Olivier Awards earlier this year to a resounding standing ovation, I was hoping that for this evening performance I would get to her her do Effie justice in full, and I can say that thankfully this came true, and she absolutely blew me away with her effortless vocal range and sass that she brought to the character.
I must say that I went into this musical very dark, and taking aside the performances from Amber Riley I had seen previously, I didn’t really know much about the storyline, nor had I seen the 2006 movie adaptation, which starred Jennifer Hudson as Effie White, Beyoncé as Deena Jones, and Anika Noni Rose as Lorrell Robinson. For me this served a real sense of being able to watch the production without knowing what was coming next, and I really enjoyed that sense as I was able to go along with the characters and experience what they were feeling that in that moment without knowing how it was going to turn out, though some parts did soon become predictable.
For me the first 15 minutes of the production did seem to drag along quite a bit with song after song and real sense of any characterisation being played out; I completely understand why this was, as the setting was a TV show with lots of musical performances, but I began to feel like I was watching a concert rather than a production. I should say though that straight from the beginning, I was in awre at how beautiful the costumes were on everyone and how the set really did seem very retro and suited in with the 60’s style that the production portrays, and the way that the scenes transformed fluently from scene to scene made it feel like a slick movie that instantly cuts from one moment to another without all stagehands running on moving set pieces about; a particular simplistic move to signify the characters being the wings of a the stage was by turning three set pieces around, and this instantly connected with the scene being set backstage, which was such a clever move.
After the initial slow and tedious start to the production, the action soon picked itself up and ran with good pace and continued brilliant performances from all involved; Adam J Bernard, who played Jimmy ‘Thunder’ Early, the role in which Eddie Murphy portrayed in the movie, was a particular favourite with his wit and hilarity in his comic timing, bringing the character further to life with his Murphy styled speech at times, almost making it sound like the real Eddie Murphy was in the room, especially during the second act. Jocasta Almgill was also another standout in her role as Deena Jones, to which her performance of Listen, to which was a duet with Amber Riley, really had my spine shiver with sheer excitement, though once again Riley completely took it into her own stride once again during the number.
Overall, Dreamgirls is a brilliant night out in the theatre, and after an initial shaky start of a concert styled beginning, soon picks up to showcase a beautiful heartfelt story about love, friendship, and trust, something that is vital in the dark times that we are currently facing in the real world.