(Photos By Joan Marcus)
DREAMGIRLS is why show business was born. Let's not mince words. It you don't have tickets to see DREAMGIRLS at the Arsht Center, stop reading this review and get your tickets now. I forgive you. There are words that can't be found to describe the abundance of gifts from the theatrical gods that is DREAMGIRLS.
It was one of those nights in the theater that we dare to hope for, but never really expect to happen. I do hope the foundation of the Ziff at the Arsht is still safe and stable for future audiences. Last night, the bravos, cheering, goose bumps, and standing ovations after each act certainly put the mere building materials of the Arsht Center, to the test. The Arsht is still standing, as it houses a towering achievement, which is this production of DREAMGIRLS.
This backstage musical drama of a girl singing group in the 1960s is loosely based on the lives and careers of The Supremes. Effie, the hefty lead singer with the greatest voice, is pushed to the background for the more Diana Ross-like Deena to take her part as lead singer. The changes are controlled by snake-like Curtis. He is a ruthless, indeed evil man, who pushes aside his relationship with Effie just as he pushes Deena to downstage center. This conflict leads us to the magnificently powerful musical centerpiece of the show, ‘And I Am Telling You, I'm Not Going.' Did Moya Angela deliver on this show stopper? Of course she did. The audience was delirious with anticipation as the song was starting. Ms. Angela's performance of the show's most amazing musical sequence is just one of the reasons my throat is sore from bravoing and that I am hung over from lack of sleep with the grandeur of this show continually racing through my mind.
Many were tearful throughout last night's performance. In part because of the drama unfolding onstage, and in part because this musical is so damn great, that its constant assault on the senses make it clear that DREAMGIRLS is a work for the ages.
One cannot help but wonder what the genius, Michael Bennett, DREAMGIRL's creator and original director and choreographer, was thinking from the Broadway of the heavens. He would indeed be pleased that his work survives, with such power, some 30 years after it premiered on Broadway. Our heart aches at the tragic loss of Mr. Bennett at such a young age to the plague which claimed the lives of so many in Broadway's creative community. It makes the mind giddy with theatrical dreams, thinking of what Mr. Bennett, had he lived, would have accomplished in terms of gifts to us from the stage. Based on the original production, Robert Longbottom with assistance from Shane Sparks, deserve their own bouquet of bravos for directing and choreographing this production. Their presentation of Bennett's work is at times mind blowing and at times simply breathtaking.
Henry Krieger's music and Tom Eyen's book and lyrics have excellent moments. This has never been a show ‘about' a great musical score. It was Bennett's feat of theatrical wizardry that made the music, lyrics, and book, serve the ingenious staging that he set forth. DREAMGIRLS is a show of ‘impossibly brilliant' direction, choreography, design, and performance.
You do not get a grander design team than that assembled for this production of DREAMGIRLS. The scenic design, by the master, Robin Wagner, is nothing short of, well, masterful. Ken Billington's lighting and Howard Werner's media design still have me marveling in amazement and joy. You simply must see their work to encounter what they have accomplished. They have clearly inspired new heights of wonder from the mind of costume designer, William Ivey Long. Mr. Long is in no need of more great reviews or awards. He has so very many of both. However, with his designs for DREAMGIRLS, Mr. Long has perhaps capped his career with the greatest work he has brought us thus far. Giddy about DREAMGIRLS? I sure am.