Photo: From left: Kiswana Parris, Maia Parris and Emmanuelle Tshiana are part of the talented “Dreamgirls” cast. Photo courtesy of ACT/Gene Schilling.
HAVE A CUP OF JOE WITH JOE – DreamGirls: All You Have To Do Is Dream!
Few American musical productions and record labels have had such a transformational impact on American culture and music in the past century as Motown Music.
Windsorites, neighbours of the birthplace of the Motown sound town of Detroit, have witnessed firsthand its growth and global influence.
Arts Collective Theatre (ACT) in Windsor proudly celebrates the Motown Sound — its origins and development — by presenting the Tony Award winning Broadway musical, Dreamgirls for six performances April 20 to 29 at the Capitol Theatre, downtown Windsor.
Arts Collective Theatre is a not for profit organization committed to enhancing the well-being of the Windsor Essex community through theatre-based practices.
As described by ACT, Dreamgirls is a Broadway musical, with music by Henry Krieger and lyrics and book by Tom Eyen. It is based on the show business aspirations and successes of R&B acts such as The Supremes, The Shirelles, James Brown, Jackie Wilson, and others.” “Dreamgirls” tells the story of three black singers — Deena, Lorrell, and Effie who begin as a group called the “Dreamettes.”
They start as three talented, close friends and gradually sharpen their act and rename themselves, “The Dreams.” But little do they know of the hard, competitive world of show business they are entering.
For the past eight years, Chatham native, Chris Rabideau, has gained an impressive reputation and resume for his directorial skills with such works as “West Side Story,” “A Chorus Line,” “RENT” and a number of plays he has written and directed dealing with social justice issues such as teenage bullying and diversity.
Rabideau sees Dreamgirls as one of his biggest and most innovative projects.“There are more than 200 costume changes with stage sets too many to count,” Rabideau notes. “In the historic Capitol Theatre, we are presenting a show no one locally has ever produced — the first African-Canadian musical cast of young people in Windsor’s theatrical history.”
Rabideau adds the mandate of ACT is to search out new, local talent, and the “Dreamgirls” cast faithfully complies.
I had a chance in mid-February to chat with a few of the cast before one of their rehearsals.
Rochelle Day, a Windsor native and newcomer to stage acting, plays the role of Lorrell Robinson, one of the background singers of “The Dreams.”
Reflecting on her foray into acting, she states, “working under Chris Rabideau, I find myself as a person being challenged has helped me grow as a person; I’ve learned a decent amount about myself and what it takes to be in show business.”
Another Windsor native, Tony Coates, who plays the role of Curtis Taylor Jr, is no stranger to ACT. A cast member of “West Side Story” in 2014, Coates played one of the leads (Tom Collins) in ACTS’ presentation of “RENT” in 2015. In “Dreamgirls,” Taylor is a Cadillac Car dealer who sells his business to help finance the up and coming singers. Coates explains that in his role of the bankrolling entrepreneur Taylor, he starts off well intentioned but is “a villain” by the end of the show. Coates is also a guitarist who can be found plying his musical ability at local Windsor watering holes.
Verzell Page is a Detroit resident and vocalist who plays the role of Jimmy Early who according to Page, “is the James Brown of the ’60s” and a love interest of Lorrell Robinson.”
Page came to “Dreamgirls” through his friendship with Coates with whom he has shared past musical gigs. Although this is his first stage performance, Page had an audition before Motown’s Berry Gordy for his Broadway play, “Motown: The Musical.”
Tickets are $30 for students and seniors and $35 for adults for the six performance run of Dreamgirls. They can be purchased online at: CapitolTheatreWindsor.ca and ActWindsor.com or in person at the Capitol Theatre Box Office, 121 University Avenue West.