East AngliaMusicalReview

Dreamgirls – Theatre Royal, Norwich

Reviewer: Lu Greer

Music/Lyrics: Tom Eyen
Director: Henry Krieger

Set in the United States in the 60s, Dream girls introduces us to a trio known as the Dreamettes; a group of young black women trying to make their way into an industry controlled by old white men. The show follows their highs and lows, both emotionally and vocally, as they navigate love, friendship, and the pitfalls of fame.

From the opening notes of the show, it is clear that this will be a spectacle. Brandon Lee Sears as Jimmy Early seizes the stage and pulls the focus of everyone in the room in a piece which showcases impressive vocals and exceptionally complex choreography which feels genuinely spontaneous. Sears will continue to be a presence whenever he steps on stage, particularly when sharing scenes with Lorell (Paige Peddie) of the titular trio as the pair have chemistry which is equal parts intense and comedic.

Making up the rest of the Dreams are Nicole Raquel Dennis and Natalie Kassanga as Effie and Denna respectively. Kassanga, as Denna, has a voice easily equal to the others, but shines in the way she portrays her characters development going from the wide-eyed girl, through the stages of struggling with fame and relationships, to finally finding herself once more. It is, not surprisingly, Dennis’ Effie who steals the show. Most audience members will expect And I’m Telling You to be a highlight, but Dennis’ performance of it is a genuine showstopper. The raw emotion she signs with leaves the entire audience sitting in silence for a moment before breaking into a standing ovation; it is truly an honour to watch her in those moments.

The narrative of the show doesn’t, as a whole, live up to the talents of its cast. It is at its core a fairly simplistic narrative of the highs and lows of fame which never really does more than dip a toe into any real depth of character. This is an issue which is easy to overlook thanks to the glitzy costumes (Tim Hatley), clever choreography (Casey Nicholaw), and stand out vocals, but it feels almost a disservice to the acting talents on the stage.

Overall, Dreamgirls, is a standard musical of the old guard which doesn’t have anything new to offer to audiences. What it does have though, is some vocal performances which will stay with you long after any memory of the show itself has dissipated.

Runs Until: 11 June 2022

A Spectacle

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The South East team is under the editorship of Nicole Craft. 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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