Following opening night on Dec. 20, 1981, Frank Rich wrote in the New York Times: "When Broadway history is being made, you can feel it." In his rave review of the "beautiful and heartbreaking new musical," he praised Michael Bennett's "imaginative" staging and likened the powerhouse performance from Jennifer Holliday to Ethel Merman in Gypsy. Dreamgirls dominated the 1982 Tonys with 13 nominations. The production won six of those categories, including awards for Jennifer Holliday and co-choreographers Michael Bennett and Michael Peters, but the show lost Best Musical to Maury Yeston's Nine.
In this vintage Playbill from 1983, Adriane Lenox, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Vanessa Townsell star as the girl group on the rise. Original cast member Obba Babatunde continues as C. C. White, and Tony winner Hinton Battle (Sophisticated Ladies) replaced Cleavant Derricks as James Thunder Early.