Review: 'Dreamgirls' is thrilling night of theater and music

Contributing Culture CriticApril 20, 2013 

The Dreamgirls tour stars Mary Searcy, left, as Lorrell, Jasmin Richardson as Deena and Charity Dawson as Effie.

LEVI WALKER

  • If you go

    'Dreamgirls'

    What: Touring production of the 1981 Broadway musical by Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen presented by Broadway Live at the Opera House.

    When: 2 and 7 p.m. April 21

    Where: Lexington Opera House, 401 W. Short St.

    Tickets: $30-$105; available at (859) 233-3535, Lexingtonoperahouse.com or Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000 or Ticketmaster.com. Discount: Buy one, get one free ticket available for select seats to the 7 p.m. April 21 performance.

  • IF YOU GO

    'Dreamgirls'

    What: Touring production of the 1981 Broadway musical by Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen presented by Broadway Live at the Opera House.

    When: 2 and 7 p.m. April 21

    Where: Lexington Opera House, 401 W. Short St.

    Tickets: $30-$105; available at (859) 233-3535, Lexingtonoperahouse.com or Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000 or Ticketmaster.com.

    Discount: Buy one, get one free ticket available for select seats to the 7 p.m. April 21 performance.

  • IF YOU GO

    'Dreamgirls'

    What: Touring production of the 1981 Broadway musical by Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen presented by Broadway Live at the Opera House.

    When: 8 p.m. April 19, 2 and 8 p.m. April 20, 2 and 7 p.m. April 21

    Where: Lexington Opera House, 401 W. Short St.

    Tickets: $30-$105; available at (859) 233-3535, Lexingtonoperahouse.com or Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000 or Ticketmaster.com.

    Discount: Buy one, get one free ticket available for select seats to the 7 p.m. April 21 performance.

The Broadway Live series at the Lexington Opera House continued its outstanding season Friday night with a triumphant touring production of the classic 1981 musical Dreamgirls.

The show by Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen, which continues through Sunday, traces the rise and subsequent tribulations of a Supremes-style girl group in the 1960s and '70s. This incarnation by Big League Productions combines fantastic performers and stunning production values for a very satisfying theatrical event.

First, let's talk about the astounding technology of the scenic design by Robin Wagner, fashioned from large moving LED panels, which give an exciting cinematic quality to the fast-paced backstage story. Then I should mention the glitzy period costumes by William Ivey Long, lavish in their variety, with amped-up impact from revealing them after lightning-fast costume changes, sometimes several within a minute. The conversation should include the opulent lighting and media design by Ken Billington and Lightswitch, as well as the marvelous band, supervised by Cherie Rosen and directed by Jon Balcourt.

But, of course, any show is only as good as its performances, and this Dreamgirls cast delivers vocal and dramatic thrills in abundance. In the principal role of Effie, the most talented of the girls who is asked to step down from lead singer, Charity Dawson more than fills the shoes of Jennifer Holliday and Jennifer Hudson, whose award-winning performances on stage and screen must be daunting benchmarks. Her dramatic intensity gives this show its heart, creating a larger-than-life character out of moment after moment of subtle nuance. Similarly, her amazing singing left the impression of a powerhouse belter, but with so much subtlety and variety of color. Move over, Jennifers — Charity owns a piece of Effie.

As the beautiful but less artistically gifted Deena, Jasmin Richardson shines. It's a part perhaps more difficult to pull off than Effie. She has to demonstrate her relative lack of charisma and vocal ability while convincing the audience that her character, too, could become a huge star, and entertaining the audience in her own right. Move over, Charity — Jasmin owns a piece of this stage.

The other actresses, Tonyia Myrie Rue as Lorrell, and later Kimberly Michelle Thomas as Effie's replacement, Michelle, are great, too, with Rue providing many of the show's lighter moments.

After Effie, the most tour-de-force role is that of Jimmy, the soul singer trying to cross over into mainstream pop. Michael Jahlil wiped up the stage with it. His performance was the complete package of comic/dramatic acting, fabulous dancing and vibrant singing. Move over, Charity and Jasmin — Michael owns center stage, too.

The men in these women's lives are a mixed bag in terms of ethics, but they are portrayed vividly in this production. Kolby Kindle is effective as the sympathetic but weak-willed manager Marty, and Aubrey Poo is suitably smarmy as the opportunistic promoter Curtis. Terrance Johnson is especially affecting as the group's idealistic songwriter CC, soft and sweet among the more alpha-male characters. They all have impressive moments as singers and actors throughout the show. Move over, Dreamgirls — the men own a big piece of this play.

The rest of the ensemble exhibits the same level of talent and professionalism as the leading players, adding much to every scene and musical number.


IF YOU GO

'Dreamgirls'

What: Touring production of the 1981 Broadway musical by Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen presented by Broadway Live at the Opera House.

When: 2 and 7 p.m. April 21

Where: Lexington Opera House, 401 W. Short St.

Tickets: $30-$105; available at (859) 233-3535, Lexingtonoperahouse.com or Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000 or Ticketmaster.com.

Discount: Buy one, get one free ticket available for select seats to the 7 p.m. April 21 performance.


If you go

'Dreamgirls'

What: Touring production of the 1981 Broadway musical by Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen presented by Broadway Live at the Opera House.

When: 2 and 7 p.m. April 21

Where: Lexington Opera House, 401 W. Short St.

Tickets: $30-$105; available at (859) 233-3535, Lexingtonoperahouse.com or Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000 or Ticketmaster.com. Discount: Buy one, get one free ticket available for select seats to the 7 p.m. April 21 performance.

Tedrin Blair Lindsay is a musician, theater artist and lecturer at the University of Kentucky.

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