Releasing a rollercoaster of emotions, Dreamgirls is nothing short of a night of soul and dazzling performances from Karen Mav, Liisi Lafontaine and Adam J Benard at the Savoy Theatre in London.
If you’ve never heard of Dreamgirls before, I just have one question. Where have you been hiding? Dreamgirls is a musical that follows the journey of a soulful trio form Chicago hoping to make their way to stardom.
The first production opened on 20 December 1981 at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway, the musical, directed by Michael Bennet originally starred Sheryl Lee Ralph has ‘Deena Jones’, Jennifer Holiday as ‘Effie White’ and Loretta Devine as ‘Lorell Robinson’.
After winning six Tony awards and becoming a movie adaptation in 2006 starring Beyoncé Knowles, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson and Anika Noni Rose, which won three Golden Globes and two Oscars by the way, I think its safe to say that Dreamgirls is now a classic.
Directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw (Aladdin and The Book of Mormon) the revived musical is back and has made its way to the West End.
Now while it must be noted that this revival does star Glee’s Amber Riley who plays the very vocal and sassy ‘Effie White’, I question why no one has commented on Miss Karen Mav who also plays Effie at some performances?
I was blessed to witness the latter on one of her nights where she played and she gave me life. Now if you’re wondering why her name sounds familiar it is because she appeared on The X Factor in 2015 and is showing us that is her time at the West End.
I must take a minute to applaud the production itself. The costumes, the hair, oh the hair, and the stage in its vibrancy made the night one to remember. I absolutely loved it. The slick and quick costume changes with the energy from the ensemble cast during numbers such as Steppin’ to the Bad Side had me enthralled. Dazzling and sparkling under the lights, I truly felt like I was living in the 70s.
Joe Aaron Reid, who played the antagonist, Curtis Taylor Junior, helped in successfully bringing the callous dishonest character to life, giving us a realistic love hate relationship. And who can forget Mr Jimmy “Thunder” Early played by Adam J Bernard. Some might say his performance was too much but his performance brought a comical element to the musical. With his jazzy moves that echoed that of James Brown, he definitely had the crowd in hysterics, especially during his ‘Jimmy’s Rap Soul’ baring more than just his voice!
And let’s not forget the other members of the Dreamgirls; Liisi LaFontaine who plays ‘Deena Jones’ and Asmeret Ghebremichael who plays ‘Lorrell Johnson’. While LaFontaine gave us goals with her beautiful vocals, we saw a lot more of Ghebremichael’s character Lorrell than we do in the movie, which was refreshing.
However, the standout performance for me was from Karen Mav, her vocal performances were the definition of sending chills down a person’s spine. When she broke into And I’m Not Telling You, a Dreamgirls classic, my body froze and a little tear (just a teeny one) slid down the side of my face. Before we could even judge Effie for her stubbornness, our heartstrings were seriously pulled on as she poured out her soul.