I made the very spontaneous decision to take myself to a matinee of Dreamgirls yesterday. It was very bizarre going to the theatre alone but actually was quite fun as it allowed me to concentrate on the musical and really take it in. I was pretty impressed with myself I thought my old friend Anxiety would rear its head and I would panic but nope! I was quite happy sitting in the stalls waiting for the curtain to rise and for myself to be transported to the world I was about to experience. So now the bit you are all waiting for my review.
I have wanted to go to Dreamgirls for a while and I managed to snap up a £20 ticket for the stalls from TodayTix (check them out, they do such good deals!) I knew a lot of the songs and knew the costumes were amazing so I was really excited to get the chance to go. I wouldn’t say I was disappointed by the experience but it didn’t live up to my expectations after waiting so long to see it. It felt a little tired, a matinee isn’t usually an actors favourite time to perform but you can’t usually sense that.
The one absolutely outstanding thing about this show is the singing ability of the actors. I was taken aback by how their voices were truly able to tell a story, how much range they all had and the emotion that lived within the song. It is some of the best I have ever seen, I had goosebumps for 75% of the show. The standout performance was Marisha Wallace’s rendition of ‘And I am telling you’ the whole auditorium was silent watching her and when she ended it, she received standing ovation which I have never seen or felt the need to do in the middle of a show. The raw emotion behind her singing was something I will always remember. The other standout singer for me was Tosh Wanogho Maud. His voice, interpretation and dancing was amazing. His stage presence was eye opening and his ability to keep the audience captivated was unique. If you want singing talent in your musical then this one should be top of your list.
The staging also one of the top features of the show. The way the set moved and changed was seamless, it all felt completely natural. Sometimes you can go and it feels really clunky and unrehearsed but this was not one of those times. They managed to have fabulous scenery without it taking away from the actors which was really lovely to see. Sometimes there is so much going on that you don’t know where to look but Dreamgirls managed to pull off the madness of the Showbiz world without it being to in your face.
So I loved the singing and set but I am afraid there a couple of negatives. First off, the actors just like in the story didn’t seem to be working as one. They were all very individual. For instance in the dance numbers, the three main women who played sisters were out of sync. They would start a movement at different times or their arms were all at different heights or angles. It sounds daft but it really took away from the illusion. Obviously sometimes in dance numbers they do start movements at different times but if that was the case they need to make it look a lot more intentional, as from my seat it just looked a little unprofessional. Another instance was in an ensemble number at the beginning they were all spaced unevenly so it looked very awkward. Two dancers were really close then two others were ages apart and you could see they were meant to be at equal distances. However one brilliant dance routine was ‘Steppin to the bad side’ they were all incredibly in sync and working together to perform which made it really stand out against the others.
The story itself was okay. It was quite predictable but so are most musicals! The way they managed to portray the segregation of black people during the time in which it was set worked really well. They were able to make it natural as it would have been at the time. The acting was good too, my favourite actor was definitely Joe Aaron Reid (and not just because he liked my tweet!) He was able to be the villain with such subtle flair and emotion that you came to like him. You went on a journey with the character just as you did with the protagonists which was really unusual as normally the villain is just the villain and has no other layers. You got to see him love and live which was interesting. I have seen Joe Aaron Reid in ‘In the Heights’ and was astounded at how he was able to step into the role of evil so easily. Another actor I really enjoyed was Asmeret Ghebremichael as she was so sweet and different from the other sisters, it was really refreshing. She put the element of fun into the musical and it wouldn’t have been the same without her.
Finally I loved that the actresses in the musical weren’t all teeny tiny and that they were of normal size! For an aspiring actress like me it was so nice to see relatable and well, normal women dazzling up on the stage! It was super inspiring!
So as you can see there were highs and lows! Overall it was a really lovely production that I would recommend but I wouldn’t say the standard is quite up there with the likes of Wicked and Les Miserables due to the fact they didn’t appear to be a team! However, the singing outranks most West End productions that I have seen.
I hope you enjoyed my review!
Hannah Jayne Artis ❤
PS. in the song Dreamgirls the lyrics are ‘We are your Dreamgirls, we will make you happy’ which I hope explains my title!!