Thomas Howells checks out Dreamgirls The Musical, playing Wales Millennium Centre until April 30, 2022.
My introduction to the musical, Dreamgirls, playing at Wales Millennium Centre this week, was nothing short of incredible. The story follows a female singing trio from Chicago, Illinois called “The Dreams” and their journey becoming music superstars during the golden era of the 1960s.
Displaying energy and musical presence, the ensemble cast do an excellent job in bringing their characters to life. Nicole Raquel Dennis as The Dreams leader Effie commands a standing ovation with her dynamic and moving performance of And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going at the close of the first act. While strong and determined, Effie has an undercurrent of desperation develop as the plot unfolds making her very outstanding and relatable.
Natalie Kassanga as Deena Jones also gives several mesmerising performances, encapulating Deena’s star quality and vocal presence of her character and representative era to perfection.
The subject of racial segregation and prejudice prominence in the early 60s music scene has several undercurrents running through the presentation. This includes a minimalistic set used for the first few performances by the Dreams and Jimmy Early (played charismatically by Brendan Lee Sears). This conveys how little the characters would gain from their success, despite being incredibly successful in their area. As the set became grander, we witness a visual correlation between success and the eventual collapse of The Dreams group.
As well as the success ruining The Dreams; their manager, Curtis Taylor Jr. (portrayed incredibly by Dom Hartley-Harris) has a real controlling nature. By instigating disastrous changes for the group and corruptive behaviour, the storyline emphasises how hard change is on the group members and their songwriter, CC White (Shem Omari James).
There was a repeated line “It’s just show biz’” whenever something untoward would happen (such as a song being stolen). That pushes the idea that the creatives, the performers and songwriters are at a huge disadvantage in the world. The storyline takes a more exciting and dramatic twist when that line stops being used and the creatives get more success. However, when the line returns, we can see there is a problem!
While Dreamgirls reflects its era and community, the tension the musical evokes is nothing short of thrilling, while feeling very real. Among the battles within the group and behind the scenes, it is often difficult to pick a side, as many of the characters motives have sympathetic tendencies in their motives and actions, even if they don’t always make the right decisions.
Dreamgirls also depicts how difficult a rise and fall from supertardom can be. While it isnt short on glamour and performance, the presentations costumes designed by Tim Hatley convey grandness, while looking stylish and incredible. There is also some immersive choreography from Casey Nicholaw tied in with Henry Krieger’s strong musical numbers including Steppin’ to The Bad Side ( a nod to The Temptations musical style) and the unforgettable battling of Effi and The Dreams presentation of One Night Only.
A dream of a musical, Dreamgirls delights 60s music fans and musical lovers simultaniously, while bringing originality to the mix, just as the era it represents did.
- Dreamgirls plays Wales Millennium Centre until April 30 2022. Check out ticket details via Wales Millennium Centre’s website.
- Photos of UK Tour company by Matt Crockett. © Dreamgirls UK Tour 2022.