Edited by AZI Staff
Scottsdale – Desert Foothills Theater (DFT), a division of the Foothills Community Foundation, presents the popular musical Dreamgirls Fri., Feb. 13 through Sun, March 1 in the intimate Black Box Theater of Cactus Shadows Fine Arts Center, 33606 N. 60th Street, in North Scottsdale. The special show, which coincides with Black History Month, features a cast that includes more than 20 African American actors.
Meribeth Reeves, DFT’s managing director, said the Tony award-winning musical is rarely produced in community theaters due to the demanding casting. “This is an extraordinary chance to see Dreamgirls here in Arizona. It was produced once before in 2006 by the Black Theatre troupe at the Herberger Theatre,” Reeves said.
The Broadway show, which opened in New York in 1981, became a box office hit movie in 2006, earning Jennifer Hudson an academy award for her role as a supporting actress. The show is set during a time in history when rhythm and blues blended with other styles of popular music to create a new American sound. The plot revolves around a girl group that sets their sights on making their dreams of stardom come true. While the musical is full of high-energy songs and dance performances, the play is also about the behind-the-scenes reality of the entertainment industry — the business part of show business that made possible this cultural phenomenon.
DFT’s production is directed by Damon Bolling with musical direction by Daniel Kurek and choreography by Lynzee 4Man. “Dreamgirls is a powerhouse,” Bolling said. “The music, the story…it’s all there. It makes your heart bleed as well as bring you to your feet. It covers the gamut from social change, love, friendship, fame, and more, and it has a very special place in theatre history as well. The original Broadway show marked the beginning of so many careers, like Jennifer Holiday, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Loretta Divine and Phylicia Rashad, who was in the women’s ensemble.”
Bolling jumped at the opportunity to direct DFT’s production of Dreamgirls, which he said has been in his blood for 31 years. “It was the first cast recording I was familiar with. It was released as a pop album on Geffen Records, and my mother used to clean the house while listening to it on Saturday mornings…so the scent memory of Pine-Sol/Pledge and Dreamgirls go hand in hand for me,” Bolling, a North Central Phoenix resident, said. “By the age of eight, having memorized the music long before I decided to be an actor and director, was, I think, inevitable.”
While working with such a large cast presents some challenges, Bolling said rehearsals are going smoothly. “Scheduling conflicts can make the process a bit of a jigsaw puzzle, but the cast, production staff and I are all on the same page and it is obvious the reverence we all have for the piece. No one has given anything less than their best,” he said.
Bolling said DFT’s production of the show also will feature unique staging. “Traditionally the show is done with a minimal set and scaffolding lighting rigs to give the audience the sense of a technical feel of a stage and to focus on the storytelling. But since we are in an intimate space, we are incorporating the band on stage and we’ll be using new technology with multi-media aspects instead of set pieces flying in and out. So this will literally be in your face! The storytelling device remains the same focus…the show is not about set pieces,” he explained.
Because the show is rarely produced in Arizona, Bolling encourages people to purchase their tickets early. “We’re anticipating a lot of interest in Dreamgirls. It’s a powerful story and a positive depiction of the African American music community fifty years ago. It sends a positive message about women and finding strength, about family and close ties. This is a show you don’t want to miss!”
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