Reviewed by Claire Giles
As a big fan of the film and its soundtrack I honestly could not wait to go see Dreamgirls and I wasn’t disappointed. From the first musical note to the last it was a non-stop musical and dance extravaganza that had me gripped from beginning to end.
We watched the show at the Leeds Grand Theatre and Opera House in Leeds. The Grand is based in the city centre so easily accessible by car or public transport. There is plenty of payable car parking nearby. The staff were all very friendly and helpful.
Set in the Motown era in America in the 1960’s the story revolves around three naive best friends, Effie White the lead singer, Denna Jones and Lorrell Robinson who have travelled from their hometown, with their homemade dresses and cheap wigs, to enter an amateur talent contest as a musical trio called The Dreamettes looking for their big break. Travelling with them is Effie’s brother C.C.White who is the group’s songwriter. There they meet an ambitious manager Curtis Taylor Jr who is also looking for his big break. After finding out that the contest’s star Jimmy Early needs new backing singers for his imminent tour he negotiates a deal with Jimmy’s manager Marty for The Dreamettes to become Jimmy’s new backing singers and thus getting his own big break.
Act One follows the friends ups and downs whilst on tour with Jimmy, including Lorrell’s ill fated affair with married Jimmy and Effie’s love affair with Curtis and the group’s issues as they branch off and get a record deal of their own. Curtis as their manager decides that to be successful the group needs to move away from R&B to Pop music and that Deena should be the lead singer rather than Effie as she is more mainstream to appeal to a white audience even though Effie has the better voice. This is a real test of friendship and signals the end of Effie and Curtis’s relationship. Though Effie is the heroine in the story, her sometimes diva attitude and jealousy of Deena and Curtis’s developing feelings becomes her downfall. After missing several rehearsals ( which Effie puts down to being ill but we actually later learn she was in fact pregnant) and her bad behaviour she is replaced in the group and this leads up to the huge musical number at the end of the first act of ‘I am telling you i’m not going’ and wow what a performance it was. Nicole Raquel Dennis as Effie delivered the most amazing rendition of the song I have ever heard. She is a real powerhouse and her voice is simply amazing. But not only did she sing the song amazingly she delivered an amazing emotional rendition that had you honestly believing she was Effie and you really felt for her. The audience started clapping before she had even finished the song and the whole audience was on their feet for a standing ovation at the end of her performance.
Act two jumped forward 7 years. The Dreams are now a hugely successful group and Deena is a major star in her own rights. Outwardly she seems like a woman who has everything but is actually desperate to get away from her controlling husband / manager Curtis. Lorrell is still waiting for Jimmy to leave his wife after 7 years together and doubting his love for her. Effie is a single mother who is still looking for her big break but her own fears of failure are holding her back. Curtis’s manipulative behaviour brings the girls back together and a friendship is rebuilt. This gives the girls the motivation they need to go forward and do what needs to be done in order to grab their dreams.
The girls may get the fame and fortune they always wanted but that doesn’t guarantee them the happiness they want.
Nicole Raquel Dennis as Effie and Brandon Lee Sears as Jimmy really stole the show. Nicole hit every note perfectly and gave such a dramatic and emotional performance that she almost had me in tears at parts. Brandon as Jimmy not only had an amazing voice but his performance was exuberant with a comedic element. You could not help but smile when he was performing on stage but also felt for his character trying to hang onto fame no matter what until he eventually snaps and his career is over. He truly delivered it all. The cast as a whole were genuinely astounding singers and dancers and that’s what made the show so good.
The dance numbers were expertly choreographed to add to the songs and take them to the next level. The costumes not only reflected the changing times throughout the show but were stunning. There were several costume changes, even one on stage where Effie went from wearing a simple blouse and skirt to a full on evening gown in seconds!
I have been to see many stage shows and this is definitely in my top two. It had something for everyone. The cast thoroughly deserved the standing ovation they received at the end.
Ticket cost from £24 – £61
Dreamgirls is at The Grand Theatre & Opera House Leeds from Tuesday 21st June – Saturday 9th July 2022
For more information or to book tickets visit www.leedsheritagetheatres.com or call the box office on 0113 2430808
Leeds Grand Theatre, 46 New Briggate, Leeds, LS1 6NZ