I have to admit up front that I am a bit of a sucker for shows like Dreamgirls that tell showbiz behind-the-scenes stories. The Dreamgirls touring production which is at Starlight Theatre through Sunday, is a fresh production that is making a run in hopes of a revival on Broadway. This latest production is a technology-packed spectacle which was plagued by the storms that greeted Starlight Theatre on Tuesday night. As the old adage goes however, “The show must go on.”
When the curtain was finally raised around 8:30PM after an amazing lightning storm put on by mother nature that delayed the show, rain began to fall and would stick around the entire length of the show. The crowd that decided to stick around were rewarded with the best of a bad situation. While the rain and the storms wreaked havoc on the technical-heavy production, at one point the show had to be paused for about ten minutes to correct an issue. The performers, and the theater patrons that were willing to stick it out made the best of it with one of the company members acknowledging the foul weather without missing a beat.
For the uninitiated, Dreamgirls tells the tale of a young female trio that go by The Dreamettes. The show opens with the women competing on amateur night on the world famous Apollo stage. The Dreamettes are composed of Effie White, the fantastic Moya Angela, Deena Jones, (American Idol season 7 alum, Syesha Mercado) and Lorrell Robinson (Felicia Boswell). They don’t win the competition, due to a pay off by their manager who is also a car salesman. Jeez, do they have to broadcast any further in advance this guy is a slime ball? The car dealer-turned manager Curtis Taylor Jr. is played with a pitch perfect level of sleaze factor befitting of such a character by Chaz Lamar Shepherd. The Dreamettes end up becoming back up singers for the established James “Thunder” Early, an amazing physical and vocal performance by Chester Gregory who worked up the drenched crowd several times during the show. Eventually money and egos collide as the women become The Dreams and the original trio breaks up after Effie is moved to backup and then replaced by a younger, prettier face.
The show features several large led screens which allow for a really cool back and forth effect that allows the show to switch nearly instantly between what’s going on onstage and quickly switch to the drama backstage. It’s a really cool timed effect that uses some slick choreography. The screens are also used at other times throughout the show to become a recording studio and television studio. The show uses cameras and the led screens to create the live TV experience and several other effects though out. It’s easily the type of show where the performances could be out shined by the production’s effects. Thankfully this isn’t the case as the company gives it their all and give outstanding performances. While the Starlight season started a bit flat for me, it certainly ramped up with Dreamgirls.
I give Dreamgirls 4 “storms can’t keep a good show down” out of 5
By John Coovert
Note: Starlight is offering rain checks to those that weren’t able to hold out during Tuesday night’s show. Call Starlight customer service at 816 .363.7827 as soon as possible to arrange seats for the remaining performances.