Book and Lyrics by Tom Eyen and Music by Henry Krieger
Director… Casey Nicholaw
Cast includes… Amber Riley, Liisi LaFontaine, Asmeret Ghebremichael, Joe Aaron Reid
Time: 7:30 pm Matinee: Wednesday & Saturday at 2:30 pm
Running time: 2 hrs 40 mins, including interval
There is no doubt that the hype surrounding Amber Riley in this production of Dreamgirls really does live up to its expectations, but I can promise you that she will not be the only thing to blow you away during your time watching the show. With 2 Olivier Awards and a WhatsOnStage award already under its belt, Dreamgirls – after 35 years since opening on Broadway, and having finally made its West End debut – takes you on an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish, and the entire ride is worth every penny paid and second spent.
The show sees three strong, young black females fighting for a chance at fame and success in a time that is still riddled with racism and judgement – all while being managed by a controlling and hot-headed tyrant love interest of more than one of the leading ladies. Curtis Taylor Jr. (Joe Aaron Reid) pits the girls against one another to be the lead singer of the group, which subsequently leads to life changing consequences. The role of Lorrell Robinson (Asmeret Ghebremichael) allows for slight comedic relief from the head-to-head battle with in the group between Effie White (Amber Riley) and Deena Jones (Liisi LaFontaine), which lifts the tension felt by the audience as the girls try to settle their differences.
Although the onstage chemistry is fierce and strenuous, the three main characters that make up The Dream(ette)s have a great bond and their voices work so incredibly well together, that it makes for musical genius. Between the glitz and glamour, we are besotted by magical performances from all cast members, including the renowned ‘And I Am Telling You’, performed by Riley, who received a standing ovation for her performance at the end of the first act. Along with this, we get to experience a beautiful, reconstructed rendition of ‘Listen’, performed by Riley and LaFontaine, that sees the respecting characters, Effie and Deena, reunite for an important and loving connection between the pair.
Set design appears simplistic yet tasteful throughout, however; the simplicity of the set has interesting use that allows the audience to see artists in the show perform to their crowd, before flipping to face upstage and the set changing to a backstage view, where we witness the behind-the-scene tensions between Effie, Deena, Lorell and Curtis all performing downstage. Complimentary to set design, elegant and captivating costumes for the lead girls, allow for a quick and impressive dress changes, as well as remarkable and mind-blowing performances.
Albeit the ensemble cast of Dreamgirls are phenomenal, and the show wouldn’t be anything without them or Casey Nicholaw’s choregraphy, the performance really was stolen by the leads, who captivate the audience from start to finish – mainly by Riley, LaFontaine and Reid. Though there are no great big twists or unforeseen and shocking events, the entire show is visually, emotionally and audibly sensational and one that’s most definitely worth the visit.