Written by Ariyanna Norman
The Arizona Informant attended the opening night of Dreamgirls on February 13. The Desert Foothills Theater is presenting the musical though March 1 at the Cactus Shadows Fine Arts Center. The show is directed by Damon Bolling, music direction is by Daniel Kurek, and the choreagraphy is by Lynzee 4Man.
Dreamgirls follows a female singing trio’s journey to fame. The story spans at least a decade of the girls’ highlights and pitfalls of stardom and success. Love, jealousy, and the politics of show biz intercept their paths and each girl must finally learn how to stand up for herself. The Dreamgirls are Effie Melody White (played by Chanel Bragg), Deena Jones (played by Krystal Pope), and Lorrell Robinson (played by Jaqueline Rushing)
The performance space was a very intimate setting. If you’re lucky enough to sit in the first row, it will feel like a private performance at the Apollo Theater.
The costumes were a major component of successfully bringing the audience back to the time period, but the fabric and the fit of some of the dresses could be improved. The set and props were simple but that did not detract from the quality of the production.
The stage was small but the actors did not let it affect their dancing. They used the area effectively with creativity and precision. The choreography was fun and varied, but there were moments when the dancers could have been more in sync with one another. Even though it was evident that some dancers had more formal training than others, everyone had great showmanship.
The orchestra was superb, but there were a few instances when Pope’s microphone levels could have been higher. The harmonies were great, but the solo performances were especially notable. James “Thunder” Early (played by Ivan Thompson) was a comedic crowd-pleaser; Thompson’s performances were very high-energy. Bragg’s performance of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” was extraordinary. It wasn’t just that she hit all the tough notes, it was her facial expressions that made you feel Effie’s pain and desperation. “I am Changing” and “One Night Only” were also special.
Bragg said she never thought she’d get a chance to play the role of Effie White. “For myself, it’s teaching me vocal stamina and making sure that I can sustain because Effie sings a lot of really hard songs.”
The cast was entirely made up of local performers and it was a very cohesive group. Bragg said she’s worked with several of the actors on other performances and they’re like a big family. “I am so blessed that I get a chance to perform with these amazing individuals,” says Bragg. “When I got excited about being Effie, more than the role, I was excited about who was in the cast.”
This production of Dreamgirls is definitely worth seeing. It’s a bit of a drive, (Black Box Theater of Cactus Shadows Fine Arts Center, 33606 N. 60th Street, in north Scottsdale) but if you want to support local Black actors, then it’s a must. The show was entertaining from beginning to end and will only get better during its residency.
Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Group sale discounts are available for 10 or more. Visit www.dftheater.org or call 480-488-1981.