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a Musical
by Tom Eyen and Henry Kreiger

COMPANY : Broadway Across America [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The Fabulous Fox [WEBSITE]
ID# 3853

SHOWING : October 12, 2010 - October 17, 2010



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A Feast for the Eyes, Mud for the Ears
by playgoer
Sunday, October 17, 2010
The production of "Dreamgirls" at the Fox is visually stunning. Costumes are dazzling. The set consists of panels that pivot, rise, and reconfigure, with video projections making them sparkle and shine throughout the production. There's a cinematic flow to the action that works incredibly well throughout the show, especially at the start, as the panels pivot to suggest fly curtains through which we're glimpsing onstage performances.

Some of the wig/costume changes are done in the blink of an eye. The most startling is when Effie's dashiki-like top is given a tug in act two and falls gracefully into an elegant gown. Most of the other quick changes come in the show-biz moments of TV appearances, with projections giving the feel of studio backdrops and different camera angles. The impact of the triumphant European tour is made clear by video showing nighttime scenes of iconic skylines and screaming hordes of fans.

In terms of sound, there are two problems: 1) some of the female singing is so mannered that diction is iffy and 2) the volume level is often pumped up enough that lyrics disappear. That lessens the overall impact of the show, although it certainly keeps the energy going.

Performances are all good, especially by the men. Milton Craig Nealy plays the upright Marty with strength and dignity. Chaz Lamar Shepherd plays the sleazier, more ambitious Curtis Taylor, Jr. with winning dance moves and vocal intensity. Trevon Davis appealingly portrays composer C. C. White, while Chester Gregory nearly walks away with the show as James "Thunder" Early. His Miami appearance before a white audience is hilarious, as he struggles to control his impulses to let loose and howl (and what a howl he has!).

The Dreamgirls all have their strengths. They all have strong voices and strong acting skills, and every one of them looks the part. Vocally, all have their issues. Syesha Mercado, as Deena Jones, tends to lose volume in her upper register when she sings sweetly, which makes the initial hearing of the song "Dreamgirls" disappointing. Adrienne Warren, as Lorrell Robinson, generally comes off well, but lets her diction turn to mealy-mouthed mush in her big act two number, making her incomprehensible. Moya Angela, as Effie White, has a powerhouse voice, but gives in to the by-now obligatory gutteral moans in "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," making it seem less her own than it should be. It doesn't help that her outfit for the number is matronly and unattractive, making her look like some sort of cleaning lady for her biggest moment in the show. A casual sundress would have worked much better.

Wigs are sub-par in quality and ever-present, even on the men. From a distance, that's probably not too distracting. In close-up, the look becomes tiresome after a while. In general, the show's initial impact tends to wear off during the long running time. It doesn't help that the action in the second act is slower and less uplifting than act one's. Still, this is a very impressive show in terms of production values. It's a true visual treat, even in curtain calls, as the panels light up with pictures of the actor currently entering to take a bow. Technology has never looked better on the Fox stage.
Who Could Ask For Anything More?
by TheatreJock
Saturday, October 16, 2010
My only point of reference to “Dreamgirls” was seeing Jennifer Holliday sing “And I Am Telling You…” on TV and the recent movie version. My expectations of the production running this week at the Fox were not very high. I figured I would be seeing the umpteenth touring production of the show, attempting to capitalize on the movie’s notoriety. Boy, was I wrong!

The program states that this particular production of “Dreamgirls” was intended to re-imagine or “re-vision” the show, in light of the movie’s success. It succeeds and exceeds that goal in a big way. This is one of those rare productions in which every aspect of the show—performance, set, costume, lighting, all reach a high level of achievement, blending together to give its audience an incredible experience. The non-performance elements are of such quality and utilized so creatively that they become part of the cast.

The set is a series of panels which move and reconfigure themselves with seamless, fluid movements. Sometimes backdrops, sometimes lighting fixtures, sometimes projection screens. They place the audience onstage, backstage, inside, outside, in London, in Paris—anywhere and everywhere. And yet, as contemporary as the set is, the show still effectively evokes the 60’s from the early days through the more turbulent, psychedelic era.

The costumes contribute greatly helping the audience transition along with the Dreamettes from the earliest, somewhat raw and primitive talent, to the sleek, glossy, highly buffed and coiffed performers. At the show’s end, when the Dreams come onstage for their final performance as a group, the picture of the three ladies in their white gowns—enhanced by the set and lighting—is incredibly beautiful.

Performances are of the highest quality—a high energy and fully engaged cast. Yes, the actress portraying Effie (Moya Angela) is excellent and perfectly nails the show’s signature song, “And I Am Telling You.” The audience began to applaud the moment they recognized the song’s opening notes, and Ms. Angela did not disappoint, giving a full-throttle, all stops out rendition which had the audience on its feet by the song’s end. This Effie made the song her own without any hint of imitating her predecessors in the role.

But Ms. Angela was given a run for her money in the performance of Chester Gregory as James “Thunder” Early. He was spectacular in every way. While those two were standout performances, the company as a whole was excellent. Musical highlights for this reviewer, included “Steppin’ To the Bad Side” and “Listen”—written for the movie but added to the show’s score.

This “Dreamgirls” is a superb, highly entertaining and exciting theater experience. Only a couple of performances left. See it if you can—you won’t be sorry.


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