VINTAGE PLAYBILL: Dreamgirls, 1981

By Megan Dekic
and Brynn Cox
20 Dec 2013

On this date in 1981, the original production of Dreamgirls, starring Loretta Devine, Jennifer Holliday and Sheryl Lee Ralph, opened at the Imperial Theatre. The Playbill Vault looks back on its successful Broadway run.



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.

Read the opening-night Dreamgirls Playbill here.

The Playbill Vault also features a Dreamgirls Playbill from two years into the show's run. 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. 

See a vintage 1983 Playbill from the long-running original production.