20 December 1981
The Supremes and the history of Motown and rhythm and blues music
1981 Broadway1983 US Tour1985 International Tour1987 Broadway revival1994 Atlanta, Georgia1997 Chicago, Illinois1997 US Tour2001 Broadway concert2002 Atlanta, Georgia2006 Feature film2007 Atlanta, Georgia2009 US Tour2012 St. Louis, MO2013 Vancouver, BC2016 West End
Effie White, Curtis Taylor, Jr., Deena Jones
Kinky Boots, Jersey Boys, 42nd Street, Hairspray, The Color Purple
Tom eyen accepts best book tony award for dreamgirls 2 1 82
Dreamgirls is a Broadway musical, with music by Henry Krieger and lyrics and book by Tom Eyen. Based on the show business aspirations and successes of R&B acts such as The Supremes, The Shirelles, James Brown, Jackie Wilson, and others, the musical follows the story of a young female singing trio from Chicago, Illinois called "The Dreams", who become music superstars.
- Tom eyen accepts best book tony award for dreamgirls 2 1 82
- Dreamgirls trailer
- Act I 1960s
- Act II 1970s
- National US tours
- South African tour
- Malaysian production
- Colombian production
- Melbourne Australia
- West End
- Similarities to The Supremes story
- Film adaptation
Staged with a mostly African-American cast and originally starring Jennifer Holliday, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Loretta Devine, Ben Harney, Cleavant Derricks, Vondie Curtis-Hall, and Obba Babatundé, the musical opened on December 20, 1981, at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway. The musical was then nominated for 13 Tony Awards, including the Tony Award for Best Musical, and won six. It was later adapted into a motion picture from DreamWorks and Paramount Pictures in 2006. The film starred Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé, Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson, Danny Glover, Anika Noni Rose, and Keith Robinson.
Act I: 1960s
In 1962, The Dreamettes, a hopeful Black girl group from Chicago, enter the famous Amateur Night talent competition at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York ("I'm Lookin' for Something", "Goin' Downtown", "Takin' the Long Way Home"). The group is composed of full-figured lead singer Effie White and best friends, Deena Jones and Lorrell Robinson. For the contest, the Dreamettes sing "Move (You're Steppin' on My Heart)", a song written by Effie's brother, C.C., who accompanies them to the talent show. Unfortunately, they lose the talent show, but backstage, the girls and C.C. meet Curtis Taylor, Jr., a car salesman who becomes the Dreamettes' manager.
Curtis convinces James "Thunder" Early, a popular R&B star, and his manager, Marty, to hire The Dreamettes as backup singers. Though Jimmy Early and the Dreamettes' first performance together is successful ("Fake Your Way to the Top"), Jimmy is desperate for new material. Curtis convinces Jimmy and Marty that they should venture beyond traditional rhythm and blues and soul audiences and aim for the pop market. C.C. composes "Cadillac Car" for Jimmy and the Dreamettes, who tour ("Cadillac Car (On the Road)") and record the single upon their return ("Cadillac Car (In the Recording Studio)"). "Cadillac Car" makes its way up the pop charts, but a cover version by white pop singers Dave and the Sweethearts ("Cadillac Car" (Reprise)) steals the original recording's thunder. Angered by "Cadillac Car's" usurpation, Curtis, C.C., and Jimmy's producer, Wayne, resort to payola, bribing disc jockeys across the nation to play Jimmy Early and the Dreamettes' next single, "Steppin' to the Bad Side". As a result, the record becomes a major pop hit. Conflict arises between Marty and Curtis when Curtis moves in on Marty's turf: Jimmy Early. Things become more complicated when Effie begins dating Curtis, and Jimmy, a married man, begins an affair with Lorrell ("Party, Party").
Curtis replaces him, strongly determined to make his black singers household names. Curtis attempts to transform Jimmy Early into a Perry Como-esque pop singer ("I Want You Baby"), and concentrates on establishing the Dreamettes as their own act, renaming them The Dreams, changing their act to give them a more sophisticated and pop-friendly look and sound. The most crucial of these changes is the establishment of Deena as lead singer, instead of Effie. Effie is resentful of her change in status within the group. C.C. convinces her to go along with Curtis's plan ("Family"). After a fight between Marty and Curtis, Marty quits as Jimmy's manager and Curtis takes over. The Dreams make their club debut in the Crystal Room in Cleveland, Ohio, singing their first single ("Dreamgirls"). After a triumphant show, the press is eager to meet the newly minted stars ("Press Conference"). Curtis declares to Deena, "I'm going to make you the most famous woman who's ever lived," as the slighted Effie asks "What about me?" ("Only the Beginning"). Over the next few years, the Dreams become a mainstream success with hit singles ("Heavy"). As Deena is increasingly feted as a star, Effie becomes temperamental and unpredictable. She suspects Curtis and Deena of having an affair. Lorrell attempts to keep peace between her bandmates, but the task proves impossible.
In 1967, the group – now known as "Deena Jones and the Dreams" – is set to make their Las Vegas début. However, when Jimmy stops by to visit the girls ("Drivin' Down the Strip"), he learns from the others that Effie has been missing shows because of illness (it is later revealed that she was pregnant with Curtis's child). Curtis and Deena are convinced that she is trying to sabotage the act. Curtis replaces Effie with a new singer, Michelle Morris, a change about which Effie learns before anyone has a chance to tell her. Effie confronts Curtis, C.C., and the group ("It's All Over"), but despite her personal appeal to Curtis ("And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going"), the heartbroken Effie is left behind as Deena Jones and the Dreams forge ahead without her ("Love Love Me Baby").
Act II: 1970s
By 1972, Deena Jones and the Dreams have become the most successful girl group in the country ("Act II Opening" 1). Deena has married Curtis, and C.C. is in love with Michelle. Jimmy has gone years without a hit. Curtis shows little interest in updating or revitalizing Jimmy's act because of his preoccupation with Deena and Jimmy's habit of sneaking funk numbers into his repertoire of pop-friendly songs. Effie is back in Chicago, a single mother to her daughter, Magic (or Ronald in other versions), struggling to get another break. Marty, who is now her manager, compels her to rebuild her confidence and give up her “diva behaviors.” Once she does, Effie is able to make a show business comeback ("I Am Changing"). In contrast to Effie's struggling return to her musical career, Deena wants to stop singing and become an actress. Deena informs Curtis of her careers plans during a Vogue photo shoot ("One More Picture Please"), but Curtis refuses to let her go ("When I First Saw You"). Deena is not the only one chafing under Curtis's control: C.C. is enraged by Curtis's constant rearrangements of his songs, including an emotional ballad, entitled "One Night Only", which Curtis wants instead recorded to reflect the "new sound" he is inventing.
Deena Jones and the Dreams and Jimmy Early perform at a National Democratic fundraiser, on a bill featuring such groups as The Five Tuxedos ("Got to Be Good Times"). While waiting backstage to go on, Jimmy finds himself in another argument with Lorrell as to the nature of their relationship and when, or if, Jimmy will tell his wife about their affair ("Ain't No Party"). Lorrell is in tears as Jimmy takes to the stage to perform, and turns to Deena for support. As Jimmy pleads to Lorrell through his music ("I Meant You No Harm"), Deena tries to help Lorrell successfully resolve her situation, and Michelle convinces the artistically frustrated C.C. to go find his sister and reconcile with her ("Quintette"). Midway through "I Meant You No Harm", Jimmy falls apart and decides that he "can't sing any more sad songs." Desperate to keep his set going, Jimmy launches into a wild, improvised funk number ("The Rap"), dropping his pants during the performance. An embarrassed Curtis fires Jimmy as soon as his set concludes. Lorrell ends her affair with Jimmy as well. The heartbroken Jimmy fades into obscurity, refusing to "beg" for Curtis' help.
Marty arranges for C.C. to meet and reconcile with Effie at a recording studio ("I Miss You, Old Friend"). C.C. apologizes for his role in handicapping her career, and Effie records C.C.'s "One Night Only" in its original ballad format. "One Night Only" begins climbing the charts, causing an enraged Curtis not only to rush-release Deena and the Dreams' version, but to use massive amounts of payola to push Deena's version up the charts and Effie's version down ("One Night Only (Disco)"). Effie, C.C., and Marty discover Curtis's scheme and confront him backstage at a Dreams concert, threatening legal action ("I'm Somebody", "Chicago/Faith in Myself"). As Curtis makes arrangements with Effie's lawyer to reverse his wrongdoings, Effie and Deena reconcile, and Deena learns that Effie's daughter Magic is Curtis's child. Realizing what kind of a man Curtis really is, Deena finally finds the courage to leave him and live her own life ("Listen" 2). Effie's "One Night Only" becomes a number-one hit, as the Dreams break up so that Deena can pursue her movie career ("Hard to Say Goodbye, My Love"). For the final number of the Dreams' farewell concert, Effie rejoins the group on stage, and all four Dreams sing their signature song one last time ("Dreamgirls (Reprise)").
Dreamgirls had its beginnings as a project for Nell Carter. Playwright Tom Eyen and composer Henry Krieger first worked together on the 1975 musical version of Eyen's play The Dirtiest Show in Town. Carter appeared in the musical, and her performance inspired Eyen and Krieger to craft a musical about Black back-up singers, which was originally called One Night Only and then given the working title of Project #9. Project #9 was workshopped for Joseph Papp; Nell Carter was joined at this time by Sheryl Lee Ralph and Loretta Devine, who were to play her groupmates. The project was shelved after Carter departed to appear in the soap opera Ryan's Hope in 1978.
A year later, Project #9 was brought back to the table, after catching the interest of Michael Bennett, then in the midst of his success with A Chorus Line. Ralph and Devine returned, and Bennett had Eyen, who was to direct, begin workshopping Big Dreams, as the musical was now known. Joining the cast at this time were Ben Harney, Obba Babatunde, Cleavant Derricks, and twenty-year-old gospel singer Jennifer Holliday as Carter's replacement (after Carter accepted an offer from NBC to star in Gimme a Break). However, Holliday left the project during the workshopping phase, as she disliked the material and was upset that her character, Effie White, died at the conclusion of the first act. Eyen, Bennett, and Krieger continued to iron out the story and songs. Cheryl Gaines and Phyllis Hyman were both considered as replacements for Holliday.
After two mildly successful workshops which included Jenifer Lewis as Effie, Holliday returned to the project, now known as Dreamgirls. However, she found Effie's role had been reduced significantly in favor of Sheryl Lee Ralph's Deena character, and Holliday eventually quit the project again. After acquiring funding from music industry mogul David Geffen and fellow co-financiers ABC Entertainment, Metromedia, and the Shubert family, Bennett called Holliday back and agreed to rewrite the show's second act and build up her character.
Dreamgirls premiered on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre on December 20, 1981, and closed on August 11, 1985, after 1,521 performances. The production was directed by Michael Bennett, produced by Bennett, Bob Avian, Geffen Records, and The Shubert Organization, and choreographed by Bennett and Michael Peters. It starred Sheryl Lee Ralph as Deena Jones, Jennifer Holliday as Effie White, Loretta Devine as Lorrell Robinson, Ben Harney as Curtis Taylor, Jr., Cleavant Derricks as James "Thunder" Early, and Obba Babatundé as C. C. White. Dreamgirls proved to be a star-making vehicle for several of its performers, particularly Holliday, whose performance as Effie received significant praise.
Holliday's recording of Effie's solo "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" was a #1 single on the Billboard R&B charts in 1982. For the Dreamgirls original cast recording, the producers decided to present the complex musical sequences as individual songs, cutting approximately half of the score. The cast recording won two Grammy awards, Best Musical Album and Best Vocal Performance for Jennifer Holliday's "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going".
Phylicia Rashad (then known as Phylicia Ayers-Allen) was a member of the musical's company. Rashad was also Sheryl Lee Ralph's understudy; but when Ralph left the production, Rashad was not offered her role, and subsequently left the cast.
National US tours
Bennett took Dreamgirls on an abbreviated national tour in 1983, with Jennifer Holliday remaining as Effie, with Larry Riley, Linda Leilani Brown, Arnetia Walker, Lawrence Clayton, and Cleavant Derricks' twin brother Clinton Derricks-Carroll as her co-stars. Because of high costs, only three cities were played before the road production was dissolved. A second tour began in 1985, with Sharon Brown as Effie. By 1987, Lillias White, Jennifer Holliday's original understudy, had taken over the role, and the tour ended with a Broadway revival at the Ambassador Theatre. By this time, Michael Bennett had fallen ill due to AIDS-related complications, and he died on July 2, 1987.
A US tour began in 1997–98, and was to open on Broadway in July 1998, but the ill-fated tour stalled in Upstate New York while waiting for a Broadway theatre. Direction and choreography were by Tony Stevens, based on the original direction and choreography by Michael Bennett. The "Dreamgirls", Deena Jones, Lorrell Robinson and Effie White, were played by La Tanya Hall, Tonya Dixon and Roz White. The cast featured Gary E. Vincent as C.C., Brian Everett Chandler as Curtis Taylor Jr., Kevin-Anthony as James Thunder Early), Darrin Lamont Byrd as Marty, Kimberly Jajuan (who replaced the troubled Effie in the trio). The musical direction/supervision was by Keith Levenson. According to the Variety review: "Director Stevens does a splendid job of evoking (and satirizing) the continually changing fashions in clothes, hair, and music and dance styles of the '70s and early '80s." The Hollywood Reporter review notes the "scenic design (four metal light towers that suggest 58 scenic locations) of Robin Wagner; the lush and lovely costumes by Theoni V. Aldredge and the dramatic lighting by wizard Tharon Musser."
Another US tour began at the Apollo Theater, New York City, on November 7, 2009, in previews, officially November 22, through to December 12, 2009, before starting the tour. It is directed and choreographed by Robert Longbottom. American Idol alum Syesha Mercado stars as Deena, with Adrienne Warren as Lorrell, Moya Angela as Effie White, Chester Gregory as Jimmy Early, and Chaz Lamar Shepherd as Curtis. It has an all-new set design created by the original set designer Robin Wagner, and all-new costume designs by William Ivey Long. In addition to a new song sung by Deena and the Dreams at the top of Act II ("What Love Can Do"), it also adds a song from the film version, "Listen," which has been re-written as a duet between Deena and Effie.
After its success on Broadway, Dreamgirls has been frequently produced. A 2001 Broadway concert performance starring Lillias White, Audra McDonald, Heather Headley, Billy Porter and Norm Lewis was recorded and released in its entirety on CD. This concert benefiting The Actors Fund of America was one of the first public gatherings after 9/11. Only one actor appeared in this 2001 production who had also been in the original Broadway production, Lee Summers aka Leon Summers Jr.
In late 2005 and early 2006, the Prince Music Theater in Philadelphia produced a critically acclaimed revival of the show which extended for over three months. The production team included director Richard Parison, music director Jesse Vargas, and choreographer Mercedes Ellington. The production was courted by several Broadway and commercial producers. Composer Henry Krieger was said to have praised the revival as the most authentic since the original Broadway production.
In February 2016 it was confirmed that Dreamgirls will play at the The Savoy Theatre in the West End with Amber Riley taking on the role of Effie White. The production will run from November 2016. It will be directed and choreographed by Olivier and Tony Award-winning Casey Nicholaw.
South African tour
Dreamgirls premiered in South Africa at The Teatro at Montecasino on 11 March 2011. Utilising the 2009 US National Tour creative team as well as that production's sets and costumes, the South African production featured an all local (South African) cast including Tracey Lee Oliver as Deena Jones, Candida Mosoma as Lorrell Robinson, Hayley Christian as Michelle Morris, Lindiwe Bungane as Effie White (at certain performances Caroline Borole performed as Effie White), Aubrey Poo as Curtis Taylor, Jr, Bjorn Blignaut as James "Thunder" Early, Lebo Toko as C.C. White, Shane 'Duke' Wellington as Marty Madison. The South African creative team was headed by Bryan Schimmel as Musical Supervisor with Tshepo Mngoma as Production Musical Director. Trudy Fredericks was Resident Choreographer and Dance Captain with Philip Godawa rounding off the local team as Resident Director. Though receiving critical acclaim and quickly becoming a landmark milestone in the development of musical theatre in South Africa, the production closed early without completing the rest of the National Tour including the planned season in Cape Town.
The Malaysian première of Dreamgirls took place in Kuala Lumpur on July 14, 2011, at Istana Budaya (Palace of Culture). It was produced by Broadway Academy Productions under the umbrella of Broadway Academy (M) Sdn Bhd, and was a joint collaboration with The National Department for Culture and Arts (Jabatan Kebudayaan dan Kesenian Negara - JKKN) with the support of The Ministry of Information Communications and Culture Malaysia (Kementerian Penerangan Komunikasi dan Kesenian - KPKK) and Istana Budaya (Palace of Culture). The production was directed by Joanna Bessey, with music directed by Casey Koh and choreographed by Michael Xavier Voon.
The Colombian version of Dreamgirls was placed in Bogotá on May 30, 2014, at The William Shakspear Theatre. It was produced by Gimnasio La Montaña with the help of MISI Academy of Musical Theatre. The direction and choreography was made by Andrés Felipe Sánchez, with the instrumental direction of Jorge Vargas and Vocal Coaching of Leonardo Palacios. The executive director was Felipe Salazar, and the band second-director was Jimena Jaime. The sound engineering was made by Santiago Deluchi, and the Graphic design by Francisco Betancourt.
The role of Effie was developed by Natalia Afanador, the one Deena by Juliana Perez and the one of Curtis by Martin Vargas. Andrea Vela played the character of Lorell, Lucia Zarama was playing the one Michelle and Santiago Unda the one of C.C. Samuel Gonzales developed the role of James Thunder Early. Mauricio Jaramillo had the role of Marty. Santiago Rincón was Wayne Campbell and Juan Ricardo Cárdenas was Sam Washington, who were the owners of the theatre. Nicolás Martínez was Ronald, Effie's son. María José Escobar was one The Stepp Sister. Rhonda and Jaince Taylor were played by Daniela Cristancho and Lina Cortés, respectively.
The Australian premiere was staged by prominent independent theatre company, StageArt in 2015. The production was directed by Terence O'Connell, choreography by Darren Stack and music directed by Tyson Legg.
In February 2016 it was confirmed that Dreamgirls will play at the The Savoy Theatre in London's West End, with Amber Riley taking on the role of Effie White, with Marisha Wallace and Karen Mav currently serving as alternates. Initally Ruth Brown served as a second alternate, but due to illness over the Christmas period, Broadway star Marisha Wallace was asked to reprise her recent performance as Effie over a two week period. She has since been asked to stay with the production and serve as first alternate after rave reviews from both audiences and critics. Brown has, it seems, departed the show after being removed from the shows official website. The production runs from November 19, 2016, with an opening night on December 14, 2016. It is currently booking until October 2017. It is directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, with Scenic Design by Tim Hatley and Costume Design by Gregg Barnes.
Similarities to The Supremes' story
Michael Bennett, Henry Krieger, Tom Eyen, and the Dreamgirls producers denied any connections between the musical's plot and the Supremes' life stories; however the similarities between the show and actual life events within the Supremes led many to believe that the creators did actually base the musical's story on the group. It is widely believed the producers denied connections in order to avoid lawsuits from Motown, Berry Gordy, and the Supremes. Mary Wilson loved Dreamgirls so much that she named her first autobiography, Dreamgirl: My Life As a Supreme after the musical. Diana Ross performed "Family" from Act I in her historic free concert in New York City's Central Park, in July, 1983. Rumors existed Ross had seen the musical and stormed out at the end of Act I although it is unconfirmed whether this is true. Though the Deena character mirrors Diana Ross, actress Sheryl Lee Ralph stated that she was not trying to imitate Ross, but, portrayed Deena in a similar, yet distinct, style. In a Oprah: Where Are They Now? interview from 2014, Ralph had said Michael Bennett instructed her not to portray Deena like Diana Ross or else they would be sued. In the same interview, Ralph said she encountered Ross in New York shortly after the musical's opening where Ross coldly brushed her off leading to the speculation Ross knew of the show or had seen it.
Tom Eyen denied that he had the Supremes in mind when he wrote the book. He is quoted as saying in 1986: "I didn't grow up with the Supremes...I grew up with the Shirelles. Dreamgirls isn't about any one group. It's a cavalcade of black Motown singers: the Shirelles, the Chiffons, Martha and the Vandellas, Little Richard and Stevie Wonder. All the characters are larger than life."
Similarities between true life events and the plot of the musical include:
David Geffen, founder of Geffen Records and one of the play's financiers, leased the Dreamgirls film rights to Warner Bros. in the 1980s through his Geffen Pictures company. Although the film was announced several times, with singers such as Whitney Houston (as Deena), Lauryn Hill (another Deena candidate), and Kelly Price (as Effie) tapped to star, the studio eventually abandoned the project. Geffen eventually began development on the film at DreamWorks SKG, a company he co-founded, in 2004. Warner Bros., which controlled the film rights to Dreamgirls, was also originally announced as a co-financier of the film, but before shooting began, Paramount Pictures stepped in as co-producer after Warner expressed concerns over the film's budget. Laurence Mark served as producer of the DreamWorks/Paramount adaptation of Dreamgirls, written and directed by Bill Condon, who had earned an Oscar nomination for his screenplay adaptation of Chicago.
The film adaptation of Dreamgirls stars Jamie Foxx as Curtis, Beyoncé Knowles as Deena, Eddie Murphy as Jimmy, Danny Glover as Marty, Jennifer Hudson as Effie, Anika Noni Rose as Lorrell, Keith Robinson as C.C., Sharon Leal as Michelle, and Hinton Battle as Wayne. Dreamgirls was first exhibited in special ten-day road show engagements beginning December 15, 2006. Subsequently, the film went into national release on December 25, 2006. Loretta Devine, who originated the Lorrell role, has a cameo role as a jazz singer in the film. Two other alumni of the Broadway production - Hinton Battle (a James "Thunder" Early replacement) and Yvette Cason (Charlene; Effie White understudy) - also appear. While much of the material remains the same as that of the stage musical, some of the stage musical's songs (most notably "Ain't No Party") were removed, and four new songs were added. A number of changes were made to the story as well, including the additions of more overt references to The Supremes and Motown, the death of Jimmy (who is found dead on the road after a heroin overdose), and the relocation of the story's main setting from Chicago to Detroit. The film won two Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Hudson) and Best Sound Mixing.
To give the story more exposure for the upcoming film release, DreamWorks Pictures and the licensee of the original play, The Tams-Witmark Music Library, announced they would pay the licensing fees for all non-professional stage performances of Dreamgirls for the calendar year of 2006. DreamWorks hoped to encourage amateur productions of Dreamgirls, and familiarize a wider audience with the play. As a result, more than fifty high schools, colleges, community theaters, and other non-commercial theater entities staged productions of Dreamgirls in 2006, and DreamWorks spent up to $250,000 subsidizing the licensing.
1Move (Dream Girls)
2Fake Your Way to the Top