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Theater Review: Powerhouse Vocals? Goodspeed’s ‘Dreamgirls’ Has Them, And So Much More



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EAST HADDAM — Dreamgirls, the 1981 Tom Eyen and Henry Krieger musical about a fictionalized 60s pop girl group, is a musical that very rarely sees a revival. Most likely due to the powerhouse vocals needed to pull it off.

Goodspeed Opera House’s current production does not disappoint. This fast-paced, flashy and entertaining new production, directed by Lili-Anne Brown, brings this epic story to vibrant life on the Goodspeed mainstage.

Dreamgirls follows The Dreamettes (very loosely based on Diana Ross and The Supremes) as they navigate the ins and outs of the professional music scene of the 1960s and 1970s. From humble beginnings at The Apollo to their farewell concert, when the group looks much different than when it started, the musical is a show business cautionary tale for the ages. It features a few iconic musical theater songs as “One Night Only,” “I Am Changing,” and of course, “(And I’m Telling You…) I’m Not Going.”

Brown says in her Director’s Note that she approached the piece from the angle of exploring the characters’ personal journeys through the lens of the Black American experience. You can see that in every detail of the show. While this is a pop-opera of sorts, this production digs deep and feels like a very well-constructed play that happens to contain some of the best singing this area has seen in a while.

The Dreamettes (and later, The Dreams) are played by Ta-Tynisa Wilson as Deena, Keirsten Hodgens as Lorrell and on the Saturday of opening weekend, stepping into the role of Effie was Montrika Walker (noted in the playbill as Effie alternate to Tajah Bostic). Each brings a beauty, grace and fierceness to their roles, working seamlessly together.

Wilson has beautiful moments of emotional struggle as she’s thrust into the role of lead singer. The chemistry of Hodgens with the character of Jimmy Early is palpable. Walker’s big number “(And I’m Telling You…) I’m Not Going” brings down the house.

Mykal Kilgore steals the show as Jimmy (James Thunder) Early. Kilgore brings humor and heart to his James Brown-esque portrayal of Early. He is a vocal force to be reckoned with. His is a voice so powerful, the construction workers on the swing bridge nearby also got a great show.

Evan Tyrone Martin plays Curtis Taylor, Jr, a Berry Gordy type up-and-coming producer. Martin has a monumental task of driving the plot forward and keeping balance in this mostly female-driven musical. He not only holds his own, he does it with slickness and charm.

Other standouts include Robert Cornelius as the veteran manager Marty, and Jos N. Banks as Effie’s brother and songwriter CC White. Both are strong actors and bring grounding to this spectacular musical.

This show would not work without its strong ensemble. The show is peppered with big dance numbers choreographed by Breon Arzell. The ensemble executes them with ease.

Actors aside, one of the other major stars of this show is the costumes. Samantha A. Jones has channeled the 60s and 70s glamour of the music industry with perfection. Much of the budget must have gone to sparkles and sequins and it was worth every penny.

Luckily, Goodspeed’s production of Dreamgirls is not just “One Night Only.” Performances continue through December 30. Don’t miss this production; it’s one you’re going to love.

Call 860-873-8668 or visit goodspeed.org for the full performance schedule, reservations, and additional information.

The Dreams — Ta-Tynisa Wilson, Kiersten Hodgens and Trejah Bostic — and the cast of Dreamgirls, which is worth every penny of its ticket price. Performances continue to December 30 at Goodspeed Opera House. —Diane Sobolewski photo
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