Dreamgirls "Dormant," But Not Dead; Wait Till `99

News   Dreamgirls "Dormant," But Not Dead; Wait Till `99
And we are telling you --they are not going.

And we are telling you --they are not going.

At least for awhile, anyway. The presence of Jennifer Holliday singing her signature tune on the Tony Awards may have sparked people's curiosity about Dreamgirls again, but it's going to be a while before the recent remounting makes its way to New York.

Dreamgirls had anticipated coming to Broadway this past season, but a traffic-jam of filled theatres and mixed reviews for the tour's opening weeks scuttled those plans. As recently as May, the musical's producers had high hopes of bringing Dreamgirls to New York in October, but now 1999 would be the earliest date of a resurfacing for the high-energy musical from Henry Krieger, composer of Side Show.

"Right now it's dormant," a Richard Kornberg office spokesperson admitted, "but she may soon be rising again."

The Dreamgirls tour shut down in Wallingford, CT, May 3 as planned. Sources say audiences were thrilled with lead B.J. Crosby (of Smokey Joe's Cafe fame) 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 Richard Kornberg office) said (June 9) that if the show does make it to New York, the producers want to be sure it's "a first-class production... 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."


This mounting is choreographed and directed by Robert Clater (in the style of Michael Bennett's original work), taking over for Tony Stevens, whose name is still on the bill.

Back in April, Byk had said the Neil Simon Theatre was under consideration, but then the Roundabout nabbed it for a transfer of A View From The Bridge. Swan Lake will open there Oct. 8. 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.

As reported by the NY Daily News (Feb. 11), the show underwent shifts in its direction and choreography, leading to changes in the creative team. The Henry Krieger/Tom Eyen musical revival began its national tour Sept. 30, 1997 in Providence, RI.

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 Smokey Joe's Cafe star B.J. Crosby to replace Roz White (How To Succeed In Business...) as Effie. (The Daily News quotes 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 Robert Clater -- an original Dreamgirls cast-member -- to help direct and choreograph and "reinstate Michael Bennett's work." Spokesman Richard Kornberg told Playbill On-Line (Feb. 11) that Stevens is still officially billed as the director and choreographer of Dreamgirls.

According to spokesperson Kornberg, Clater, who previously staged a small Dreamgirls tour with Jennifer Holliday in 1994, played all five of the major male roles in Dreamgirls at various points during the show's original Broadway run.


Even before the Roz White/B.J. Crosby switch, another Effie was planned. Though originally announced for the role, Jennifer Holliday is not in the revival, because (according to production spokesperson Byk), "an agreement couldn't be reached." Instead, White, who received a 1995-96 Helen Hayes Award for her work in Bessie's Blues, stars as Effie. White was replaced in Baltimore, MD, Jan. 13 by Crosby, whose credits include One Mo' Time and Lady Day.

In the tour, LaTayna Hall played Deena, the back-up singer; Kevin-Anthony [sic]. Other leads included Kimberly Jajaun (as Michelle, the one who replaces Effie in the Dreamgirls); and Tonya Dixon (as Lorrelle).

Marty is played by Darrin Lamont Byrd (Big Moe in the Canadian tour of Five Guys Named Moe); Gary Vincent plays C.C. White (Effie's brother); Curtis the manager was played by Brian Everett Chandler.

Other cast members include Ronald `Cadet' Bastine, Heidi Blickenstaff, Stephen Campanella, Wydetta Carter, Tome Cousin, Teri Furr, Michael Goddard, Napiera D. Groves, Jim Berkley Harrison, Andi Hopkins, Ron Kellum, Sara Beth Lane, Kyra Little, Janice Lorraine, Erich McMillan McCall, Charles Munn, Stacie Precia, Keenah Reid, Stepp Stewart, Andre Ward, Keith Williams and Mark L. Wright.

"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." Also aboard for the revival are original Dreamgirls designers Robin Wagner (set), Theoni V. Aldredge (costumes), Otts Munderloh (sound) and Tharon Musser (lighting). Keith Levenson serves as musical supervisor.

Dreamgirls' book & lyrics (by Tom Eyen) and score (Henry Krieger, composer of Side Show) have not been changed for this production.

-- By David Lefkowitz

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