Dreamgirls – Royal & Derngate, Northampton

Reviewer: James Garrington

Book and Lyrics: Tom Eyen

Music: Henry Krieger

Director: Casey Nicholaw

Right from the start, you can tell that Dreamgirls is going to be something spectacular. It’s glitzy with a killer soundtrack and some powerhouse vocals.

It’s the 1960s and Effie, Lorrell and Deena are trying to break into showbusiness, calling themselves the Dreamettes. They enter a talent contest, which results in an unexpected outcome and sets their friendship on the road to some challenging times as fame, love and ambition threaten to derail their relationship.

Dreamgirls has a fantastic soundtrack full of powerful numbers. A good part for the dialogue is sung through too, giving the piece an almost folk-opera feel at times. Great work here from Tom Eyen and Harvey Krieger in assembling the good variety of musical styles that are needed for the trio’s journey through the ruthless realities of showbusiness. Many people will know the most popular parts of the soundtrack – And I am Telling You I’m not Going and One Night Only for example – but they are a long way from being the only decent songs in the show.

It is inevitable that much of the attention will be aimed at the three Dreams, as they go on to call themselves, but there are many equally good performances from others in what is a huge cast for a touring musical these days. Holly Liburd plays Deena (on as cover at this performance) and shows some excellent vocals and a sensitive approach to a role that requires her character to go through her own tumultuous journey when ambition threatens to derail friendship. Nicole Raquel Dennis as Effie has a huge voice which she uses to great effect. Effie has the big powerhouse number And I am Telling You I’m Not Going which Dennis delivers well, but she may want to take care not to get drawn into it to the point of it becoming overdone. Then there’s Brianna Obumbawo as Lorrell, a lesser character maybe but a crucial part of the trio and their slick ensemble vocals.

Matt Mills is a nicely manipulative Curtis, and Brandon Lee Sears is every inch the superficially spoilt and self-centred star who turns out to have a bit more to him than always meets the eye, as Jilly Early. Samuel Nicholas is on as Effie’s brother and songwriter CC White, torn between family loyalty and career and Jo Servi does a fine job as a determined but ultimately frustrated Marty, Jimmy’s manager. It’s impossible to mention everyone but there are many great performances from what is a superb cast.

A slick rollercoaster ride through a turbulent time in American music history, backed by a varied soundtrack of big numbers. This is a show that is well worth catching, and one which will surely leave even the most sceptical audience member in awe at the sheer theatricality of the production. It’s something that turns out to be a feel-good story, with is something most will welcome in current times.

Runs until 26 November 2022 and on tour

The Reviews Hub Score

Glitz and glamour with a powerhouse soundtrack

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The Reviews Hub - Central

The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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