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A CurtainUp London Review

". . .And I am telling you
I'm not going
You're the best man I'll ever know
There's no way I could ever, ever go
No, no, no, no way
No, no, no, no way I'm living without you
Oh, I'm not living without you,
Not living without you
I don't wanna be free
I'm staying, I'm staying
And you, and you, and you
You're gonna love me
— Lyric from "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" sung by Effie White
Asmeret Ghebremichael as Lorrell Robinson, Brennyn Lark as Deena Jones and Marisha Wallace as Effie White (Photo: Brinkhoff Mögenburg)
Dreamgirls is a part of the story as to how black music became mainstream. This musical was written in 1981 but is in its first stay in London at the Savoy Theatre with Casey Nicholaw, a lifelong fan of Dreamgirls and Olivier choreography winner for The Book of Mormon, directing and choreographing.

Other musicals have more recently looked at a similar time period, notably Motown and Memphis, but Henry Krieger's music was specially written for this show with book and lyrics by Tom Eyen. The movie version starred Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson as well as Eddie Murphy, Jamie Foxx and Danny Glover.

The sung-through musical is written around three women from Chicago who form an early group and whose ambition is not to be just backing singers. Their feisty lead singer Effie White (Moya Angela/Marisha Wallace/Karen Mav) will stay true to her roots and her music but her body shape will rule her out. Deena Jones (Brennyn Lark) and Lorrell Robinson (Asmeret Ghebremichael) are the other two members of the Dreamettes trio who will find success under the management not of CC White, Effie's brother (Durone Stokes), but with Curtis Taylor Jnr (Joe Aaron Reid) who also is Deena's love interest. Curtis says people want dance music, CC says people want soul.

Tosh Wanogho-Maud is Jimmy Early, loosely based on singers like James Brown whose performance is full of comedy and anarchic performance. Jimmy Early's revealed chest and lecherous moves reminded me of Lenny Henry's comic lothario, the medallion toting Theophilus P Wildebeest. Jimmy Early and Lorrell have a long and stormy affair. Jimmy's costume changes are so varied and so many, I lost count of his outfits.

People don't go to see Dreamgirls for its outstanding storyline but for the wonderful singing performances of the cast. Effie White is such a demanding role that it is played in London by three singers, two of them from Broadway but one, Karen Mav, from Liverpool who made her name on the X Factor. At the end of the first act, Effie's rendition of "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" brings the house down for what must be one of the greatest exertions in musical theatre.

The dancers bring energy to the show but I was especially impressed by the dance moves of the main male singers who manage to do it all, act, sing and dance. The other impressive part of the show is how quickly some of those costume changes are executed. In a flash Effie will change from daywear to a magical dress of sparkling sequins which in itself will have the audience saying Wow! Gregg Barnes's costumes are magnificent and the Dreamgirls final curtain by Tim Hatley looks as if the curtain is made from Swarovski crystals.

Dreamgirls seems to have found an appreciative following and the audience were involved and vocal. It opened in November 2016. I did find the original story of The Supremes and their lead singer before Diana Ross (Florence Ballard who died at 32 and was passed over after a battle with weight and alcohol and missing shows) one which touched me and am I thankful to Dreamgirls for drawing my attention to this. Berry Gordy's story in Motown doesn't acknowledge Florence Ballard and her struggle but Dreamgirls gives her a happier ending as Effie White.
Musical Numbers
Act One
    Musical Numbers Act One:
  • I'm Looking for Something, Baby,
  • Goin' Downtown,
  • Takin' The Long Way Home
  • Move (You're Steppin' on My Heart,
  • Fake Your Way to the Top,
  • Cadillac Car,
  • Steppin' to the Bad Side,
  • Party, Party,
  • I Want You Baby
  • Family,
  • Dreamgirls,
  • Press Conference
  • Heavy,
  • It's All Over,
  • And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going.
Act Two
Love, Love you Baby
  • When I First Saw You
  • I Am Changing,
  • Ain't No Party,
  • I Meant You No Harm,
  • The Rap,
  • I Miss You, Old Friend,
  • One Night Only,
  • I'm Somebody
  • Listen
  • Hard to Say Goodbye, (My Love).

  • Dreamgirls (Reprise)

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    Boom and Lyrics by Tom Eyen
    Music by Henry Kreiger Original Broadway production directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett
    Additional material by Willie Reale
    Directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw
    Starring: Marisha Wallace, Moya Angela, Karen Mav, Asmeret Ghebremichael, Brennyn Lark, Joe Aaron Reid, Tosh Wanogho-Maud, Durone Stokes, Delroy Brown, Kimmy Edwards
    With: Ryan Reid, Aston New, Ashford Campbell, Rohan Richards, Ashley Luke Llloyd, Kirk Patterson.
    Ensemble: Callum Aylott, Georgia Bradshaw, Ashford Cambell, Nicole Raquel Dennis, Nicole Dean, Ashlee Irish, Emma Louise Jones, Smira Mighty, Jayde Nelson, Aston New, Kirk Patterson, Ronan Pinnock-Hamilton
    Set Design: Tim Hatley
    Costume Design: Gregg Barnes
    Fight Director: Kev McCurdy and Jeremy Barlow
    Musical Supervisor and Director: Nick Finlow
    Hair Design: Josh Marquette
    Sound Design: Richard Brooker
    Lighting Design: Hugh Vanstone
    Running time: Two hours 20 minutes with one interval
    Box Office: 020 7452 3000
    Booking to 22nd September 2018
    Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 8th March 2018 performance at the Savoy Theatre, Savoy Place, London WC2R 0ET (Rail/Tube: Charing Cross)
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