Friday, March 15, 2013

'Dreamgirls' Heats Up Hollywood's Met Theatre

“We're your Dreamgirls, boys! We'll make you happy. Yeah... We're your Dreamgirls, boys! We'll always care. We're your Dreamgirls... Dreamgirls will never leave you! No, no... And all you have to do is dream, baby, We'll be there!”

When the musical Dreamgirls first hit the Broadway stage in 1981, it instantly became a fan favorite. It made a star out of newcomer Jennifer Holliday, whose rendition of the song, ‘And I Am Telling You’, brought down the house while racing up the charts. 

Over the years numerous versions of the show have been staged regionally.  Back in 2006, it was transformed into a hit film starring Beyonce, Jennifer Hudson (American Idol), Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, Anika Noni Rose, Keith Robinson and Danny Glover.  Hudson won the Oscar® for her portrayal of Effie White, a plus size, powerhouse singer who is pushed out of the spotlight in order to make way for Deena Jones, who, with her long hair and slim physique, seemingly better fits the profile of a star. 

Dreamgirls is inspired by the Motown acts of the 1960s, specifically the Supremes and The Shirelles. 

The story of the Dreamgirls lives on in a vibrant DOMA Theatre Company production of the beloved musical currently staged at the MET Theatre in Hollywood.

The Dreamgirls in this production, directed by Marco Gomez, are seasoned actor/singers Tyra Dennis, Jennifer Colby Talton and Constance Jewell Lopez, who play the Dreamettes - Lorrell Robinson, Deena Jones and Effie White, respectively. Tiffany Williams, who eventually replaces Effie, is played by Michelle Morris.

These four women light up the stage in convincing fashion. Morris makes an appearance late in the play, but is effective nonetheless. Tyra Dennis is hilarious as the coming of age Lorrell, who is swept off her feet by one of the biggest and sexiest stars around at the time, Jimmy Early, played craftily by Keith Bolden. Jennifer Colby Talton is convincing as a gullible young starlet caught up in the madness her husband and manager, Curtis Taylor Jr. (Welton Thomas Pitchford) has concocted for her. Constance Jewell Lopez is stunningly talented and proves it by stealing all of the scenes in which she appears.  Her rendition of ‘And I Am Telling You’ is emotive and powerful.

The men in the production produce as well. Pitchford is sickeningly convincing as the slimy Curtis Taylor Jr., a record executive who would feed his own mother to the wolves if he thought it would produce a hit. Frank Andrus Jr. is a gem in the role of C.C., who happens to be the songwriter for the group as well as the brother of Effie.  His voice is soothing and full.

Armed with some impressive singers, this latest production of Dreamgirls does not disappoint.

Surprisingly, this huge production of 28 actors and six band members, works in a rather small space. Transitions and set changes are made with relative ease and quickness.

The band and the costume designer also deserves kudos for this production. The band, with Chris Raymond as the musical director, is tight. Michael Mullen’s costumes are actually like another character in the play. One costume upstages the other in dazzling brillance – giving the Dreamettes a look that spans from teens to superstars.

Gomez, who skillfully makes great use of the small stage, has assembled a winning team. All of the elements including acting, choreography, costumes, lighting, sound, wig/hair design and, of course, directing make for a successful production.

Ensemble members include Stephen Anglin, Ty Brittingham, Regan Carrington, Ra’Shawn Durell, Leon Fleisher, Alan Fleury, Robert Gee, Adair Gilliam, Lina Green, Michelle Holmes, Mookie Johnson, Paul Lange, Leslie Marrero, James Oronoz, Melissa Owens, Desiree Parkman, Nik Roybal, Marni Stone, Tandrea Tarver, Rachae Thomas and Jeremy Whatley.

The band includes Chris Raymond (keyboards/conductor), Antonio Rodrigo (bass), Martin Diller (drums), James Blackwell (trumpet) Ermuel Navarro (trombone) and Tom Luer (reeds).

On the Donloe Scale: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (OK) and E (excellent), Dreamgirls gets an E (excellent).

Dreamgirls, Met Theatre, 1089 N. Oxford Ave. LA; Thur.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m., through April 14. Tickets: $20-$34.99.; 323 802 4990.

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