Dreamgirls

2 July 2018, Savoy Theatre, London

Dreamgirls was so much fun! Initially I was a bit bummed that we didn’t have Amber Riley playing the main role of Effie White, especially considering she won an Olivier Award for her performance. But seeing Marisha Wallace… I cannot imagine anyone who could’ve played the part stronger. What a voice!

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I was really impressed with how much they were able to fit on stage… the myriad scene and costume changes, the number of dancers given the limited stage size plus quite space-taking (expansive? Hm, how does one describe this!) choreography. The trick of flipping between front and backstage was a clever recurring motif that appeared throughout the show which I thought gave a nice recognizable rhythm.

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Although the songs weren’t as good as those from Motown (also inspired by Diana Ross and the Supremes), the singing was definitely the highlight of the show. I liked how they built it up so that their voices were progressively showcased as getting stronger and stronger, just like a singer’s journey. Especially the main character – you could see the actress underplaying her skills until it was time to unleash them during the show-stopping power ballad ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going’.  Her performance of it was WOAH and WOW.

It’s been over a month since I watched this show and one of the things I remember most vividly is the two token white guys… ha! And how they would even often balance them out on stage in the choreography so things would be symmetrical. Terrible actually, given the themes addressed in the show (racism and sexism in the 80s)… but also somewhat amusing to see… or maybe even deliberate?

I’m not sure if it’s a good thing, but for me, with musicals, unlike theatre, I’m a lot more forgiving. The messages, the lack in depth and width are almost excused by the bright lights, slick choreography, shiny costumes and strong voices. But this show still had some pretty alarming messages..  how people of colour have to be crooks to make it big (the movie actually had to apologise to Berry Gordy). So while I can still watch and enjoy such musicals (and others with equally troubling messaging like in Grease), I refuse to produce them for our youth!


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