Broadway Under the Stars: Dreamgirls 35

| July 17, 2016

Broadway Under the Stars: Dreamgirls 35

John Anson Ford Amphitheatre, Hollywood, CA, July 10, 2016

Reviewed by Elliot Zwiebach for Cabaret Scenes

Clockwise from top: Sheryl Lee Ralph, Jennifer Holiday, Loretta Divine. Photo: Courtesy of Ken Werther Publicity

Clockwise from top: Sheryl Lee Ralph, Jennifer Holiday, Loretta Divine.
Photo: Courtesy of Ken Werther Publicity

They’re still your dream girls, boys — and they can still make you happy!

Nearly 35 years after they opened in Dreamgirls in late 1981, Loretta Devine, Jennifer Holliday and Sheryl Lee Ralph reunited at an outdoor venue on a mellow summer night to perform songs from the show and recall their younger selves. It was an electrifying evening—for the sold-out audience and, one would hope, for the ladies themselves.

Ralph is hot and sexy, strutting around the stage with an outsized personality and a voice that kills; Devine is divine, singing with delicately controlled fire; and Holliday remains a force of nature, still able to get the full measure of THAT song with an intense energy that might have been difficult to pull off 35 years ago when she was … well, 35 years younger.

Ralph worked with producer Chris Isaacson to develop the anniversary tribute—only the second time since the three performed in the original production that they have worked together (the first was a charity event some years ago)—and she showed she hasn’t lost a step or a note, mesmerizing and emotive on a sweet, tender “When I First Saw You” and sizzling on “It’s Gonna Be My Time,” a dizzy, dazzling tour-de-force number that was cut from the show before it opened.

Devine demonstrated her superb vocal instrument recreating two sublime numbers—a hot, powerful rendition of “Ain’t No Party” from the Broadway show and a dynamic, defiant “Old Friends” from the movie version.

Holliday brought down the house on each of her three solos—“And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” still a powerful anthem after all these years, with a series of vocal growls that the audience ate up; a powerful “I Am Changing”; and a slow-building, ultimately wailing version of “One Night Only.”

In the up-tempo version of “One Night Only” that followed, Devine and Ralph were joined by a third singer, Sharon Catherine Brown—who has played Effie in several productions of Dreamgirls over the years—in a terrific performance in which she more than held her own singing with the veterans.

In between performances by the three principals were those by other talent, including Kenny Lattimore singing sweetly and tenderly to Ralph on “You Are My Dream”; Frenchie Davis strutting her fine stuff through “Love You I Do” from the film version; and a fantastic trio of 11- and 13-year-olds (Marsai Martin, Ciera Hart and Saana Gray) singing and slinking their way through “Move.”

Backing the singers throughout the evening was Musical Director Kenneth Crouch on piano, along with six other musicians. 

Possibly owing to the difficulty of assembling a cast of singers and dancers that totaled 24, the show at times had an under-rehearsed quality, with long blackouts between numbers while waiting for the next performer to come out—at one point stranding a troupe of dancers in various poses onstage when a number ended with no immediate exit cue.

The evening opened not with a bang but a whimper—the three women, introduced one by one, sat on stools during an extended interview conducted by Perez Hilton. While the information shared was interesting, the crowd seemed to grow restless, and as soon as Perez threw it open to the audience to pose questions, people shouted out they wanted to hear the women sing. Opening the show with the trio singing and postponing the interview till the opening of the second act would have made more sense.

However, the interview did establish—once and for all, the women said—that The Dreamettes were not based on The Supremes. That affirmation was seconded by Mary Wilson, one of the original Supremes, who strode on stage to confirm that fact—saying “I know, because I didn’t get paid”—before exiting.

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Category: Cabaret Reviews, Los Angeles, Los Angeles Cabaret Reviews, Regional

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