Photo: Dreamgirls cast curtain call. Photo by Joe McParland
“All You Have To Do Is Dream” – Dreamgirls Review
On Friday night I attended the opening performance of Dreamgirls presented by Windsor’s Arts Collective Theatre (ACT) at the Capitol Theatre. I had previously previewed the show in the March issue of Biz X magazine.
I cannot recall the last time I left the end of a theatrical performance with so many different emotions. This performance left me breathless – filled with joy, awe, wonderment – and excitement for the future of theatre in Windsor.
Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of live theatre and have seen hundreds of professional and amateur productions in my lifetime. I have also dabbled a little in acting. If I tend to be effusive in my reviews of some productions, it is because I have experienced enough of them know the difference in terms of their quality. Make no mistake about it, Dreamgirls, ranks at the top of my “MUST SEE” list, and Windsorites who fail to attend one of their remaining five performances are doing themselves a huge disservice.
Dreamgirls is a 2006 American romantic musical drama film released by DreamWorks Pictures and Paramount Pictures. It was adapted from the 1981 Broadway musical of the same name by composer Henry Krieger and lyricist/librettist Tom Eyen.
The film, starring Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé, Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson, and Danny Glover is a work of fiction inspired by the history of the Motown record label and one of its acts, The Supremes. The story follows the history and evolution of American R&B music during the 1960s and 1970s through the eyes of a Detroit, Michigan girl group known as the Dreams and their manipulative record executive.
The movie won numerous awards including Golden Globe (Best Motion Picture), Screen Actors, BET and Academy Awards in 2007. Jennifer Hudson took home the Oscar for best Supporting Actress. They also won an Oscar for Best Sound Mixing.
As someone who has grown up across the river from Detroit, I experienced firsthand the birth, growth and evolution of Motown and its significance and impact on the North American and international music stage. It will long be remembered as one of the strongest musical movements of our age. In the view of many, it ranks second only to the automotive industry in terms of Detroit’s identity.
The ACT performance of Dreamgirls pays worthy homage to Motown and the great performers it gave birth to.
So, what exactly is it about this local production’s presentation that has me and many other so excited? Let me highlight some of the reasons why:
- Dreamgirls is led by the talented (and getting to be ‘veteran’) artistic director, Chris Rabideau. In the last decade Rabideau has established himself as a huge creative force in our local theatrical scene. Moreover, Rabideau serves as an inspiration and mentor to so many young people approaching the stage for their first time.
- The majority of Dreamgirls ensemble is making their first ever appearance on the stage. This fact in itself is absolutely remarkable. So, I repeat again, nearly every one of the actors and actresses in this play are ‘young’ persons who have never been on the stage before. I am puzzled how Rabideau continues to find such talent in our midst. Ordinarily, I would be reluctant to highlight this fact for fear of discouraging people from attending – thinking the performance would be too ‘amateurish. Believe me, it is anything but amateurish. It is mesmerizing in all its aspects.
- The lead of Effie White is played by 19-year old Florine Ndimubandi from the University of Windsor – not a Dramatic Arts student, but someone studying in the Business program. This is one gifted actress with a voice unlike any I have heard locally. She is possessed of a charm and talent rarely seen in someone her age. Her closing musical number of the first half nearly resulted in a standing ovation as the curtain dropped.
- Though Ndimubandi plays the ‘lead’ role, the entire supporting cast are ‘leads’ in their own right. So much talent and enthusiasm!
- The majority of the ensemble are of African (black) heritage which is fitting for Windsor, a city blessed with a rich cultural diversity.
- The male lead, Jimmy ‘Thunder’ Early is played by Verzell, a Detroit native who auditioned a few years back for a role in “MOTOWN: The Musical”.
- Costume Managers, Moya McAlister and Jay Medd, produced so many stunning outfits, the likes of which most drag queens would die for.
- Led by musical director, Sebastian Bachmeier, the nine-person group played flawlessly from their perch high above the rear of the stage.
- Leslie McCurdy lent her expertise as Technical Dance Instructor, Ian Smith as Vocal Coach, and Jolie Katembo as Choreopgrapher.
- Finally, this play is a must for all those who, in the words of Rabideau seek “a celebration of music, culture and female empowerment… to illuminate diversity in Windsor Essex …and celebrate the 2018 vision of ”The Year of the Movement” by showcasing a musical era that was close to home.”.