On Friday 4th I went to see Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre in London. Being a fan of the film, I had high hopes before sitting down to watch the musical. I was lucky enough to see Amber Riley playing Effie, who put on a phenomenal performance of compelling acting, snappy dancing and mind blowing singing. All the actors were incredible, and no one appeared to be a weak link within the cast. In fact, it was a joy to see the actors laughing and dancing together during the curtain call, clearly bonded as friends not just acquaintances.
I know a few people who watched the performance before me, and every one of them commented on how talented Adam J Bernard (Jimmy) was. His vocal range and impressive dance moves exceeded my expectations and did the character ultimate justice. I also felt the character relationship between Jimmy and Lorell (Asmeret Ghebremichael) was perfect, leaving the audience wanting the best for both characters. Ghebremichael’s voice was outstanding, providing smooth soprano harmonies and roof raising solos.
The staging was simple and effective, with sections of the floor moving to slickly bring staging and characters on and off stage. The lighting helped create the club atmosphere for certain scenes, and the split staging to create the front of stage and back stage was inventive. Acts ‘performed’ to the back of the stage, whilst characters who were talking back stage faced the audience. This worked well, avoiding cutting overly often to new scenes. A sense of comfortability was created through the intimate atmosphere, which was generally good however there were moments this didn’t work so well. During Riley’s songs, audience members often clapped and cheered over her before she had finished her notes, which she may not have minded but I felt it was a shame for her top notes to sometimes be unheard due to cheering. There was also a tense scene between Deena (Liisi LaFontaine) and Curtis (Joe Aaron Reid) where Deena is leaving Curtis for good. Audience members were shouting out to her and laughing, causing the actors to have to wait for silence to say their lines, and also disturbed the flow of the scene. I found this extremely rude, as audience members could have contained their excitement until the end of the scene when there was an opportunity to applaud.
As I saw the film adaption before the musical, I missed the added songs including ‘Love You I Do’ and ‘Patience’, however, I appreciate these are adaptions which don’t belong on the stage performance. In 2009, a duet version of ‘Listen’, sung by Deena and Effie was added to the stage production and therefore was performed when I watched the musical. I felt the duet was an amazing addition to the show and was my favourite song performed. Not only did it showcase Riley’s voice once more (after ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going in Act One) but it also gave LaFontaine a chance to show off the power of her voice. Together, both of the women brought out the best in each other, their voices resonating in the theatre beautifully. I was left with goosebumps.
At the end of the performance, I was able to meet LaFontaine, Reid and Liburd (who played C.C.) at the stage door. I never expect actors to come out and interact with audience members, as this is not a requirement of them. However, all the actors were so lovely, taking photos and talking to me about performing. I was even lucky enough to get LaFontaine to sign my programme. I feel this shows the passion and love the actors have for their show, which is reflected on and offstage.