Focusing on the fictional Motown group The Dreams, famously inspired by The Supremes, Dreamgirls explores the stardom, competition, and love lives surrounding three African-American women climbing the ranks of the music industry in the ’60s and ’70s. The musical starred Holliday as Effie White, Ralph as Deena, and Devine as Lorell—the trio at the center of it all—breakout roles for each.
The original production opened December 20, 1981, at Broadway’s Imperial Theatre. Directed and co-choreographed by Michael Bennett and co-choreographed by Michael Peters, Dreamgirls featured a book and lyrics by Tom Eyen and music by Henry Krieger. Nominated for 13 Tony awards including Best Musical, the show ultimately won six, including Best Book of a Musical, Best Actor for Ben Harney, Best Actress for Jennifer Holliday, and Best Featured Actor for Cleavant Derricks. The show played over 1,500 performances before closing August 11, 1985.