Dreamgirls, which is supported by Bruno Wang Productions, has opened in London to enthusiastic reviews from critics who are hailing its glamorous yet slick production, joyous and unflagging dancing, and a stunning lead performance from American actress Amber Riley.
The musical, which the Guardian is calling a “fantastic ride on the showbiz rollercoaster” is directed by Casey Nicholaw (Aladdin, The Book of Mormon), 35 years after the original Broadway show by Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen, which was also adapted for a 2006 film starring Jamie Foxx and Beyoncé Knowles.
Critics are highlighting its pace and energy with The Independent calling it a “full-throttle, fast-moving blast of a production”, which left Sarah Crompton writing for What’s On Stage saying, “I couldn’t stop smiling”.
The story follows the career of the Dreamettes, a black girl trio from Chicago, who rise to fame and fortune during the 1960s. It’s a powerful tale of how music can sell out and about the artistic compromises forced on black composers and performers if they wanted to cross over into white-dominated pop music.
But it is Riley’s singing which has audiences talking and cheering. Riley, who came to fame via TV series Glee, makes even the more ordinary numbers (music by Henry Krieger, lyrics by Tom Eyen) sound like show-stoppers. The Telegraph notes: “When she reaches the first half’s absolute belter, And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going, packed with hurt, defiance and soulful passion, she has the audience rising to applaud her. What a voice!”
This is the actress’s first West End role, and she is supported by a stage full of great singers. Joe Aaron Reid brings a sense of studied detachment and ambition to Curtis, while Tyrone Huntley as Effie’s songwriter brother CC White also stands out vocally.