Goodspeed Opera House
By Tom Holehan
Connecticut Critics Circle
“Dreamgirls” for the Holidays at Goodspeed
The Goodspeed Opera House is concluding their season with a polished revival of “Dreamgirls” that promises to be a major hit for the theatre. I am in that small minority that has never been enamored of this backstage musical but appreciate the amount of work and talent currently taking place at the East Haddam theatre.
With book and lyrics by Tom Eyen and music by Henry Krieger, “Dreamgirls” charts the rise of a Motown girl group in the early 1960s, The Dreams (obviously inspired by The Supremes), their ambitions to make it in a male-dominated industry and their quest for love sometimes in all the wrong places. “Dreamgirls” also details the radio payola scandals of the time and the slow but growing cross-over acceptance of black artists by white audiences. It includes many of the showbiz clichés you’d expect, but it also has a good score and, at Goodspeed, enough energy in the performances to make you a happy participant.
In the plum role of Effie, full-figured lead singer of The Dreams, understudy Montria Walker did just fine in the role made famous by both Jennifer Holliday (Tony winner, Broadway) and Jennifer Hudson (Oscar winner, movie). It is a demanding role that includes the signature number, “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going”, a powerhouse torch song that ends the musical’s first act. Walker handles the role with the attitude required and also does well with the musical’s second best song, “I Am Changing”, in act two.
Without an Effie to dominate the proceedings, this more balanced production finds its strongest performance from Mykal Kilgore. The actor manages to steal most of the evening playing Jimmy Early, a composite of James Brown, Jackie Wilson and Little Richard, that he achieves with head-spinning alacrity. He is simply electric and it’s difficult to focus elsewhere when this dynamo hits the stage. Evan Tyrone Martin’s silky smooth agent is a tad one note but still commanding and Ta-Tynisa Wilson, while never truly charismatic enough to play the musical’s Diana Ross stand-in, still looks fabulous and sings like a dream. Keirsten Hodgens is also a ball of fire with a belter’s voice as the third member of “The Dreams”.
Lili-Anne Brown’s direction is on target throughout and she has an ace technical crew backing her up. Arnel Sancianco’s scenic design, Jason Lynch’s brilliant lighting and Samantha C. Jones’ costuming all shine here. Can we also have a moment for Earon Chew Nealey who had to be busy designing hair, wig and make-up that seems non-stop in “Dreamgirls”? All told this is a holiday gift from Goodspeed and very much worth seeing.
“Dreamgirls” continues at the Goodspeed Opera House through December 30th. For further information and ticket reservations call the theatre box office at 860.873.8668 or visit: www.goodspeed.org.
Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and the Stratford Crier and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: email@example.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.com.