Though there's still a small possibility Dreamgirls will reach Broadway this season, the chances have gotten slimmer in the last week.
Spokesperson Jim Byk told Playbill On-Line the musical is still having trouble finding a Broadway theatre big enough to house the show. Also, as reported by the Daily News (Feb. 11), the show has undergone shifts in its direction and choreography, leading to changes in the creative team. The Henry Krieger/Tom Eyen musical revival began its national tour Sept. 30, 1997 in Providence, RI.
Tony Stevens had been helming the project and got it up to speed (reviews were good for the first few engagements). But then in December, Stevens went to Germany to direct a different Dreamgirls there, leaving the Broadway-bound mounting in the stage manager's hands. That was apparently fine until the producers decided to bring in Smokey Joe's Cafe star B.J. Crosby to replace Roz White (How To Succeed In Business...) as Effie. (The Daily News quotes sources saying White had trouble getting through the show's biggest number, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going.")
Sources told Playbill On-Line that with the new casting and director Stevens unavailable, the show became "broader and broader," moving away from Michael Bennett's original, seemingly untouchable staging of the show back in 1981. Ultimately, the producers brought in Robert Clater -- an original Dreamgirls cast-member -- to help direct and choreograph and "reinstate Michael Bennett's work." Spokesman Richard Kornberg told Playbill On-Line (Feb. 11) that Stevens is still officially billed as the director and choreographer of Dreamgirls.
According to spokesperson Kornberg, Clater, who previously staged a small Dreamgirls tour with Jennifer Holliday in 1994, actually played all five of the major male roles in Dreamgirls at various points during the show's original Broadway run. As for the show's Broadway plans, if a theatre doesn't come available soon, the producers will target late summer or early fall. [For those keeping tabs: the Belasco (where Jackie runs to March 1), is too small, as is the John Golden. A View From The Bridge looks likely for the Neil Simon; while Side Show -- another Krieger musical -- is still holding out hope that it will come back to the Richard Rodgers, though the director has left and the actors have been release from their contracts.] Producers Irving Siders and Marvin Krauss, in association with Mitch Leigh, Albert Nocciolino & James M. Nederlander, had been expecting the show to reach a Nederlander Broadway house the last week in April 1998.
Even before the Roz White/B.J. Crosby switch, another Effie was planned. Though originally announced for the role, Jennifer Holliday is not in the revival, because (according to production spokesperson Byk), "an agreement couldn't be reached." Instead, White, who received a 1995-96 Helen Hayes Award for her work in Bessie's Blues, stars as Effie. White was replaced in Baltimore, MD, Jan. 13 by Crosby, whose credits include One Mo' Time and Lady Day.
LaTayna Hall plays Deena, the back-up singer; Kevin-Anthony [sic], a former Grease! Teen Angel, portrays Jimmy "Thunder" Early. Other leads include Kimberly Jajaun (as Michelle, the one who replaces Effie), who was in a recent workshop of a new Sondheim revue at the Roundabout; and Tonya Dixon (as Lorrelle).
Marty is played by Darrin Lamont Byrd (Big Moe in the Canadian tour of Five Guys Named Moe); Gary Vincent plays C.C. White (Effie's brother); Curtis the manager is played by Brian Everett Chandler.
Other cast members include Ronald `Cadet' Bastine, Heidi Blickenstaff, Stephen Campanella, Wydetta Carter, Tome Cousin, Teri Furr, Michael Goddard, Napiera D. Groves, Jim Berkley Harrison, Andi Hopkins, Ron Kellum, Sara Beth Lane, Kyra Little, Janice Lorraine, Erich McMillan McCall, Charles Munn, Stacie Precia, Keenah Reid, Stepp Stewart, Andre Ward, Keith Williams and Mark L. Wright.
"It's a wonderful story, very emotional, and people relate to it," said Byk of Dreamgirls, which features the songs "One Night Only," "I Am Changing," "When I First Saw You" and "Family." Also aboard for the revival are original Dreamgirls designers Robin Wagner (set), Theoni V. Aldredge (costumes), Otts Munderloh (sound) and Tharon Musser (lighting). Keith Levenson serves as musical supervisor. .
Dreamgirls' book & lyrics (by Tom Eyen) and score (Henry Krieger) have not been changed.
Here, subject to change, are the upcoming tour dates:
Jan. 20-Feb. 15, 1998 in Kennedy Center, Washington DC
Feb. 17-March 1: in Palace Theatre, Cleveland OH
March 3-22: Detroit Opera House, Detroit, MI
March 24-29: Merriam in Philadelphia, PA
March 31-April 5: Devos in Grand Rapids, MI
April 7-12: Music Hall in Tulsa, OK
April 14-19: Shay's Buffalo Theatre in Buffalo, NY
April 21-26: Auditorium in Rochester, NY
April 27-May 3: (tentative) Oakdale Theatre, Wallingford, CT
Further dates had been originally announced for after April 26, but they were cancelled due to the show's possible Broadway plans.
-- By David Lefkowitz