Close to flawless in its incredible staging and fantastic casting, the 2013 touring production of soul musical "Dreamgirls" boasts a dream cast that has audiences applauding throughout as actors display every vocal talent on parade.
Huge LED screens (by scenic designer Robin Wagner) backup the production, giving the show a larger-than-life and over-the-top Broadway quality. Cast members make impressive and quick costume changes in almost every scene, and each costume (designed by William Ivey Long) is more gorgeous than the last.
The stage show suffers from a few undeveloped character arcs that matured in the 2006 film adaptation, both acts have abrupt endings and audiences have trouble understanding bits of dialogue that sometimes overlaps other action on stage. But outstanding visuals, mind-blowing vocals on trademark songs like "I Am Changing" and creative choreography (by Michael Benett, Shane Sparks and Brittney Griffin) on songs like "Steppin' to the Bad Side" give the production a unique edge.
The heart-wrenching story follows three young African-American women (Jasmin Richardson, Mary Searcy and Charity Dawson) on their journey to the top of the music industry. Men, sex and fame go along, as well, setting off the ensuing conflicts.
The musical's score, which comprises the majority of the show, gives each of the leading ladies the chance to show off their vocal talents. All three are equally gifted with goosebump-inducing, powerhouse voices, but Dawson gets the biggest spotlight as Effie, the Dream who gets the raw end of the deal. Dawson dominates trademark ballads of the musical, including the well-known "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," "I am Changing" and "One Night Only."
The males of the cast shine, as well. Michael Jahlil has plenty of humor and heart as James Thunder Early, whose music career slowly declines throughout the show. Aubrey Poo makes an alluring foe as manager Curtis Taylor, Jr. Kolby Kindle plays the more street-wise manager Marty, and Terrance Johnson perfectly fits the adorable younger brother, C.C. White, who writes the Dreams' music. The four male leads also have wonderful voices.
Really, the cast has no weak links, and the audience knows it from the start. Each moment of "Dreamgirls" comes with a buzz of energy, the kind of energy that only high-quality live theatre can bring. And as far as live theatre goes, "Dreamgirls" has a lot to offer.
Jan 8-9 - Fresno, CA - www.magicspace.net/fresno/
Jan 11-13 - Modesto, CA - www.galloarts.org