Dreamgirls at The Alex review by Mazzy Snape

Dreamgirls, thestage musical, a multi award winning production is currently in residence at The Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham until 31 December.

You might be familiar with the film Dreamgirls, starring Jennifer Hudson and Beyonce, Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy. You may even be familiar with some of the fabulous songs, ‘One Night Only’, ‘And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going’, ‘I Am Changing’ and more. The film was in fact, based on the 1981 play which was rumoured to be based on the story of Motown sensations ‘The Supremes’.

Already a big fan of the film, The Supremes and being a huge fan of soul music in general, (in fact that’s an under exaggeration, I’m a soul DJ who presents a soul music radio show and promotes soul club The Night Owl) things would have had to go pretty awry for me to not enjoy the stage show.

This is the story of “The Dreams”, three soul-singing hopefuls, Effie (Nicole Dennis), Lorrell (Paige Peddie) and Deena (Natalie Kassanga). Starting from their humble beginnings entering talent contests, to lucky breaks, heartbreaks and sisterhood.

The show kicks off with someone banging on a cowbell and let me tell you, from that moment I am IN. Although at the start things are quite minimal in terms of the stage decor, this seems to represent the small beginnings of the band, “The Dreamettes” (later the Dreams), as the story goes on the razzle-dazzle becomes much more prominent.

Right from the off it’s obvious that these ladies can sing and are their own unique superstars. Lorrell, the youngest of the three, is sassy and silly, Deena just IS Diana Ross, elegant, soft spoken and beautiful whilst Effie is raw gospel-style soul that comes straight from the heart. These three main players have my undivided attention throughout. Nicole Dennis plays Effie and has me on the verge of tears with the power of her performance at several points.

An incredible performance by all of the cast, if those girls were not SO amazing then Brandon Lee Sears’ turn depicting the rise and fall of James Brown-esque Jimmy Early might have stolen the show. His dance moves alone – outtasight!

As far as the similarities to The Supremes, it’s not a cut-and-dry biography, the story of the rise of Deena Jones undeniably has a lot to do with the great Diana Ross. Whereas the play’s lead, Effie Jones, seems to be based on an amalgamation of divas, a touch of The Supremes Mary Wilson yes, but also of Etta James and Aretha Franklin. The Supremes also started off with ‘ettes’, like The Dreams, had a stint in Vegas and the main love triangle with Curtis Taylor Jr. (played fabulously by Matt Mills) clearly takes inspiration from Diana Ross’s entanglement with Berry Gordy Jnr. Even down to the film aspirations. There are more similarities but it’s more fun to try and pick them out when you watch it! Or rush to google every single character and reference after like any normal human being.

Beautiful songs, mind-blowing vocal performances and all the sparkle your heart desires, Dreamgirls is the perfect show for a Christmas treat. I would happily go again in a heartbeat, see you there?

Words by Mazzy Snape Director breadbirmingham.co.uk