Though a Broadway-bound tour of Dreamgirls conked out on the way to New York last season, producer Irving Siders hasn't put the project aside. He intends to mount a sit-down production of the musical this season in London, with one cast-holdover from the tour: B.J. Crosby as the lead, Effie.
Crosby is currently in Smokey Joe's Cafe and will be there through Jan. 16, 2000, so the earliest Dreamgirls could reach the West End would be late winter. A production spokesperson from the Richard Kornberg office told Playbill On-Line the show is also still waiting for a theatre to come available.
Brenda Braxton, Crosby's Smokey Joe co-star, will choreograph the London Dreamgirls mounting. It's unclear whether she'll copy Michael Bennett's original work, create her own style or do a little of both. (The dance work was a major problem for the tour; original choreographer Tony Stevens was replaced by Robert Clater, who promised to hew more closely to Bennett's celebrated vision.) Mark S. Hoebee will direct the Henry Krieger-Tom Eyen tuner.
Hampered by mixed reviews and the logjam of booked Broadway theatres, the Dreamgirls tour shut down in Wallingford, CT, May 3, 1998. Sources said audiences were thrilled with lead Crosby and that Theoni V. Aldredge's costumes were splendid, but audiences missed the high-tech staging of the 1981 original.
Spokesperson Jim Byk (of the Kornberg office) said at the time, "The original version had a very elaborate set. It used five towers that moved by themselves to create the space of a room rather than the room itself. On the tour, they used four towers, and the cast moved them by hand. There were also hydraulic floors on Broadway, which just couldn't be done in a touring production." Producers Irving Siders and Marvin Krauss, in association with Mitch Leigh, Albert Nocciolino & James M. Nederlander, were initially hoping the show would reach a Nederlander Broadway house the last week in April 1998.
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 Crosby to replace Roz White (How To Succeed In Business...) as Effie. (The Daily News quoted 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 Clater -- an original Dreamgirls cast-member -- to help direct and choreograph and "reinstate Michael Bennett's work."
"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."
-- By David Lefkowitz