Detroit marks a fitting final stop for Dreamgirls, which launched at Harlem's Apollo Theater in November 2009. The backstage showbiz story about a girl group on the rise begins during the Amateur Night talent competition at the famed Harlem venue and centers around Detroit and the creation of the Motown sound.
Dreamgirls features music by Henry Krieger and book and lyrics by Tom Eyen (with additional lyrics by Reale). The late Michael Bennett directed and choreographed the original Broadway production (Michael Peters co-choreographed); Bennett and Peters won Tony Awards for the show's choreography.
Robert Longbottom (Side Show, Flower Drum Song, Bye Bye Birdie) directed and co-choreographed the new production with Emmy Award-winning hop-hop choreographer Shayne Sparks. Dreamgirls debuted at the Apollo Nov. 7, 2009, and played an extended New York run through Dec. 12, 2009, prior to embarking on a national tour.
New York audiences embraced the production, which incorporated new material from the film, and welcomed back original Dreamgirls scenic designer Robin Wagner. The Tony winner rendered new designs for the tour, which featured moveable LCD screens that reinforced the cinematic qualities of the staging.
The latest stage incarnation of Dreamgirls, which first played a test run in Seoul with an all-Korean cast in the winter of 2009, includes the 2006 film's song "Listen," rewritten by Krieger and Willie Reale. In the current production, the song was reconceived as a duet for Effie and Deena. Krieger and Reale also penned a new opening sequence for the second act, entitled "What Love Can Do." Despite the press and brand-name status generated from the Academy Award-nominated film, the Motown fairy tale about an unknown girl group faced difficulty at the box office. Dates were cancelled at Washington, D.C.'s National Theatre last summer and various tour stops were abbreviated. The tour concludes Dec. 26, one week prior to its original closing date of Jan. 2, 2011.
Dreamgirls has designs by Tony winners William Ivey Long (costume design) and Ken Billington (lighting design), and Acme Sound Partners (sound design), with media design by Howard Werner for Lightswitch.
Moya Angela stars as Effie White alongside Syesha Mercado as Deena Jones, Adrienne Warren as Lorrell Robinson and Margaret Hoffman as Michelle Morris. Principal casting also includes Chaz Lamar Shepherd as Curtis Taylor, Jr., Chester Gregory as James "Thunder" Early, Trevon Davis as C.C. White and Milton Craig Nealy as Marty Madison.
Drawing apparent inspiration from Diana Ross and the Supremes, Dreamgirls follows its central trio's beginnings at an amateur-night competition, to their first big break singing back up for a headliner on the road. Their road to success is not without its bumps: When they ultimately nab a headlining deal of their own, one girl's dreams are shattered as she is replaced as the lead of the Dreams.
Dreamgirls is produced by John Breglio for Vienna Waits Productions in association with Chunsoo Shin, Jake Productions & Broadway Across America/TBS.
Originally conceived as a stage project for Nell Carter, Dreamgirls was first workshopped under the aegis of Joseph Papp. When Carter departed the project to pursue television projects, gospel newcomer Jennifer Holliday was cast to join Loretta Devine and Sheryl Lee Ralph. A Chorus Line creator Michael Bennett was brought on board and after several workshops (and titles) Dreamgirls arrived on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre in December 1981.
The musical earned 11 1982 Tony Award nominations and took home six, including Best Book, Best Choreography, Best Lighting and a host of acting honors. It was bested by another innovative stage project Nine, which took home the Best Musical and Best Score honors. The recent film, adapted and directed by Bill Condon, earned newcomer Jennifer Hudson the Golden Globe and Academy Awards for her portrayal of Effie White. Tony winner Anika Noni Rose and recording artist Beyonce Knowles co-starred.