Dreamgirls by Porchlight Music Theatre

Book and Lyrics by Tom EyenDreamgirls Banner

Music by Henry Krieger

Directed & Choreographed by Brenda Dider

Musical  Direction & Orchestrations by Doug Peck

Produced by Porchlight Music Theatre

At Stage 773 Chicago

Fast-paced, well sung and emotional look into the world of R & B

Dreamgirls–owes much to  original director-choreographer Michael Bennett’s breathtaking cinematic-style staging that keeps the action flowing most effectively.  The cast depicts the rise of R and B  through the disco era, circa 1962-75.  This emotional production unfolds as an R and B pop operetta as much of the story (and dialogue) is told in song and recitative.

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The story chronicles up-and-coming 1960’s singing girl group as they experience the triumphs and tribulations found in fame and fortune. Deena Jones (Candace C. Edwards), Lorrell Robinson (Katherine Thomas) and Effie White (Donica Lynn) are The Dreamettes, a fledgling group that the ambitious agent Curtis Taylor (Evan Tyrone Martin) discovers and molds from backup singers for James “Thunder” Early (Eric Lewis channeling James Brown) to a featured group.

From the start, Dreamgirls features an assortment of Henry Krieger music and Tom Eyen’s toe-tapping tunes, rich anthems, and soulful power ballads. Act One is a fabulous rhythmic trip through R and B, Blues and Soul  with original songs written in the style of the famous MoTown tunes.  The show stopper “Fake Your Way to the Top” and “Steppin’ to the Bad Side” (my favorite in the show) is an amazingly stylistic number rich in innovative choreography.

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As in the entire show, the dances and the choreography by Brenda Didier uses the Michael Bennett format to land terrific movement. “I Want You Baby” Eric Lewis’s powerful song is spectacular !

But the first act’s core emotional moment occurs when petite Donica Lynn, as Effie White, delivers the heart wrenching power ballad “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” with deep honesty worthy of Jennifer Holiday or Jennifer Hudson’s Oscar winning rendition. Lynn received a well deserved strong ovation as she sold the song quite convincingly.

At 2 hours and 40 minutes, Dreamgirls is  an ambitious journey. The tone is melancholy and the songs become more bluesy in act tow. Donica Lynn delivers another winning song-“I Am Changing” as Effie makes a comeback as a sole artist after Curtis eliminates her from the girl group. Eric Lewis as “Thunder” Early is terrific.

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Dreamgirls is a manic, polished and classy music and dance romp through Motown. You’ll quickly get excited by the sheer energy and deep emotional truth in this modern operetta. Powerful and richly evocative voices nail the tunes as the nuances of the struggles to attain and survive fame and fortune in the music world is sensitively presented. The joyous and angst ridden world of R and B music makes for a most engaging theatrical experience.Donica Lynn and Evan Tyrone Martin anchor an outstanding cast.  Brenda Didier’s direction works well and Doug Peck’s orchestra  sounds terrific.  Take a trip into the world of R and B-it’ll send you soaring. Porchlight’s production is steeped in raw emotion expressed through song.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Date Reviewed: April 17, 2016

Jeff Recommended

For more info checkout the Dreamgirls page at theatreinchicago.com

At Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont, Chicago, IL, call 773-327-5252, www.porchlightmusictheatre.org, tickets $35 – $48, Thursdays at 7:30, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 4 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm, running time is 2 hours, 40 minutes with intermission, through May 22, 2016

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