â€śThe original Broadway production of DREAMGIRLS opened December 20, 1981 at the Imperial Theatre and won six Tony Awards and three Drama Desk Awards in 1982 with Book and Lyrics by Tom Eyen. It closed on Broadway August 11, 1985 after 1,521 performances. The original Broadway production was directed by Michael Bennett and choreographed by Bennett and Michael Peters. DREAMGIRLS was adapted into a motion picture By DreamWorks and Paramount Pictures, and opened in December 2006. The film won two Academy Awards, five Golden Globes and a Screen Actors Guild Award in 2007in addition to a Grammy Award for Best Song written for a Motion Picture for â€śLove You I Doâ€ť. The most popular song from the film, â€śListenâ€ť has been incorporated into the new stage version of DREAMGIRLS as a stirring Act II duetâ€¦â€ť
The spectacular Cadillac Palace Theatre teemed with opening night energy. As I overheard the audience members around me remarking that theyâ€™ve been â€śwaiting their entire lives to see this showâ€ť, it was clear that I wasnâ€™t the only one with the high prospects.
From the minute the curtain opened, I was intrigued by the bright and colorful lights coming from all directions. Responsible for this spectacular array was Lighting Designer Ken Billington, who has not only designed for 89 Broadway shows, but is also a 1997 Tony Award winner for his work in the musical â€śChicagoâ€ť. I also found it impossible to take my eyes off of the striking costumes by Costume Designer William Ivey Long. Long holds the title of a 5 time Tony Award winner and has worked with numerous acts including Mick Jagger for The Rolling Stonesâ€™ Steel Wheels Tour, Seigfried and Roy at the Mirage Hotel and The Pointer Sisters at Caesarâ€™s Palace. He was also inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame in 2006. Most elaborate were the dazzling costumes of â€śThe Dreamsâ€ť. The eye-catching sparkles and sequins were a sure reflection of their flair and star quality
The show would not nearly be as breathtaking without its sharp and up-tempo choreography. Dance was no secondary component as each movement perfectly coincided with the musical number being performed. The shows highly accomplished choreographer Michael Bennett made his debut in 1973 when he conceived, choreographed and directed â€śA Chorus Lineâ€ť, which received nine Tony Awards. In 1979 he produced, directed and choreographed his second hit musical, â€śBallroomâ€ť, which landed him his sixth Tony. He landed his seventh for the original DREAMGIRLS in 1981 and then directed its revival in 1985. Co-Choreographer Shane Sparks is one of the most sought after choreographers working today. His credits include massively popular TV shows â€śSo You Think You Can Danceâ€ť, where he is currently starring in his 5th season, as well as MTVâ€™s â€śAmericaâ€™s Best Dance Crewâ€ť. Also included is Galen Hooks as Associate Co-Choreographer who has worked with dozens of celebrity acts including Janet Jackson, Rhianna, Neyo and The Jonas Brothers with movie and television credits including 17 Again, â€śGleeâ€ť, â€śSo You Think You Can Danceâ€ť and â€śDancing With the Starsâ€ť. Clearly receptive to this unmatched talent, the audience rose with applause to numbers like â€śSteppinâ€™ to the Bad Sideâ€ť, â€śThe Rapâ€ť and â€śOne Night Onlyâ€ť.
Obviously most remarkable were the musical numbers. In an opera-style format, the entire show was nearly all singing with little spoken dialogue. This arrangement would not have been the sensation it was without the unparalleled vocal aptitude of the actors. Playing the part of Deena Jones, the role loosely based on Dianna Ross of The Supremes, was American Idol 7th season second runner up Syesha Mercado. Among her many other accomplishments are an album under the production of Grammy-winner Diane Warren and a South Eastern Theatre Conference Best Supporting Actress Award.
Undertaking the role of Curtis Jackson Jr. is major recording artist Chaz Laman Shepherd. In 2009, Shepherd graced the Billboard charts three times and received a Grammy nomination. His talent is showcased in heartfelt ballads â€śI Meant You No Harmâ€ť and â€śYou Are My Dreamâ€ť.
Actor and performer Chester Gregory exceptionally portrays Jimmy â€śThunderâ€ť Early. He is accredited to three Broadway performances including â€śTarzanâ€ť and â€śCry Babyâ€ť. Major accomplishments include starring in both the Broadway and film version of â€śHairsprayâ€ť as well as performing for Michael Jackson. Gregory is a graduate of Chicagoâ€™s own Columbia College where he received a BFA. Many a time does he thrill the audience with his dance moves in the hilarious â€śThe Rapâ€ť and â€śCadillac Carâ€ť.
Young actress Adrienne Warren as the charismatic Lorrell Robinson has performed in many New York Theatre acts such as â€śThe Wizâ€ť, â€śLittle Shop of Horrorsâ€ť, â€śCatsâ€ť and â€śBig Riverâ€ť as well as the 25th Anniversary of DREAMGIRLS starring Jennifer Holliday.
Skilled performer Trevon Davis (C.C White) was one of the seven finalists on BETâ€™s â€śSunday Bestâ€ť and appeared on MTVâ€™s â€śMaking the Bandâ€ť.
Show stopper Moya Angela (Effie White) recently finished â€śThe Lion King Tourâ€ť and is a two time Encore Award winner for her work in â€śRagtimeâ€ť and â€śThe Wizâ€ť. Angelaâ€™s powerhouse voice gives the audience chills during â€śI Am Changingâ€ť and â€śListenâ€ť, duet with Mercardo (Deena Jones), and as for her mind blowing and tear jerking rendition of headliner â€śAnd I Am Telling You Iâ€™m Not Goingâ€ťâ€¦well, you have to see it to believe it.
Backing these stars are fantastic Musical Direction and Orchestrations from Sam Davis and Harold Wheeler. Davis has directed Broadway sensation Kristen Chenoweth as well as Chita Rivera and Wheeler holds the prestigious merit of being the first African American to direct the Academy Awards ceremony. He also had the honor co-directing at the Summer Olympic Games in 1996. Presently he is the head Musical Director on â€śDancing With the Starsâ€ť
DREAMGIRLS is only in Chicago for a limited time, so don't miss out on this one of a kind performance that is sure to have you dancing in your seat all night long!
Photos: John Marcus
The performance schedule for DREAMGIRLS is:
Thursday, January 21, 2010 at 7:30p.m
Friday, January 22, 2010 at 8p.m
Saturday, January 23, 2010 at 2p.m and 8p.m
Sunday, January 24, 2010 at 2p.m and 7:30p.m
Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 7:30p.m
Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 2p.m and 7:30p.m
Thursday, January 28, 2010 at 7:30p.m
Friday, January 29, 2010 at 8p.m
Saturday, January 30, 2010 at 2p.m and 8p.m
Sunday, January 31, 2010 at 2p.m
Tickets range from $18 to $85. A select number of premium seats are also available. Tickets are available at all Broadway in Chicago Box Offices (24 W. Randolph St., 151 W. Randolph St., and 18 W. Monroe St.); the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Line at (800) 775-2000; all Ticketmaster retail locations (including Hot Tix and select Carson Pirie Scott, Coconuts and fye stores); and online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com or www.DreamgirlsOnStage.com. Tickets are available for groups of 15 or more by calling (312) 977-1710