Broadway Features and Reviews
Dreamgirls' Broadway Magic Continues
By Leora Kanner, Broadway Magazine
Today, most people who think of "Dreamgirls" think of a movie that starred Jennifer Hudson and Beyonce; however, the hit film was actually based upon an extremely important and successful Broadway show that opened in 1981 at the Imperial Theater. This production, with book by Tom Eyen and music by Henry Krieger, won six Tony awards and ran for four years on Broadway.
"Dreamgirls" is based upon hit R & B acts, like the Supremes, and follows a trio of girls called "the Dreams" who became music superstars. The show was instrumental in making some of its original stars (such as Jennifer Holliday) celebrities in reality as well. Recordings of the original soundtrack became #1 singles on the R & B charts and the original cast recording won two Grammy awards.
The musical was originally conceptualized as a musical version of Tom Eyen's play "The Dirtiest Show" in 1975. The singer Nell Carter starred in this show, inspiring a new musical based upon Black back up singers originally titled "One Night Only." The project was shelved but then revived when Michael Bennett became interested. The musical, titled "Big Dreams" went through a variety of workshops before it became "Dreamgirls." Much of the revisions centered around Jennifer Holliday's dissatisfaction with her character, Effie White, who was eventually given a large role in the show.
The musical opened on Broadway December 9, 1981 to rave reviews. Frank Rich of the New York Times gave the production enormous praise:
"When Broadway history is being made, you can feel it. What you feel is a seismic emotional jolt that sends the audience, as one, right out of its wits. While such moments are uncommonly rare these days, I'm here to report that one popped up at the Imperial last night. Broadway history was made at the end of the first act of Michael Bennett's beautiful and heartbreaking new musical, "Dreamgirls."
The musical has been reproduced for national tours, turned into a Broadway concert performance, and made into a hit film in 2006. It was revived on Broadway in 1987 for 177 performances and has been popularly performed by many stars in the making including American Idol's Frenchie Davis. The new national tour of "Dreamgirls" is currently enjoying a run at the historic Apollo Theater in New York City through December 12. The cast includes Adrienne Warren, Syesha Mercado, and Moya Angela.
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