Last weekend, the glitz and glamour of the 1960’s hit the Lower Ossington Theatre’s main stage, and set it alight. When hair was higher, moves were smoother and the only way to make it in the entertainment industry was to fight tooth and nail, the Dreamettes hit the music scene.
For those who have been living under a rock for the past 30 years, Dreamgirls was and continues to be one of Broadway and the West End’s highest grossing shows of all time, delivering a memorable storyline, as well as a hot, soulful musical score.
Dreamgirls first hit Broadway in 1981, and was an instant hit with critics across the US. Starring broadway legends such as Jennifer Holliday, Loretta Devine and Sheryl Lee Ralph, it was simply impossible for the public to not fall in love with its debut.
And despite this musical being over 30 years old, its popularity just keeps growing. In 2006, Dreamworks and Paramount pictures produced the film version of the much loved show, starring queen of R&B Beyonce, as well as American Idol Superstar Jennifer Hudson.
And just when we thought it had hit its peak in global domination, the West End stage in London UK opened its doors in 2016 to the musical once more and continues to garner fantastic reviews for its lead actress… TV star and Glee alumni Amber Riley.
But regardless of whether you seen its debut in the 1980’s or in worldwide cinemas in 2006, the story has remained the same and continues to draw us in. It is a show that not only has a big heart, but shows how important it is to follow your dream, and never let anyone change you…because being successful means being yourself.
So it was now time for Dreamgirls to hit the LOT Toronto stage, and I find myself trying to find the words to express how FABULOUS I found it to be. The show opens with our 3 main divas Effie (Krystle Chance), Deena (Maddy Eddy) and Lorrell (Alinka Angelova), hitting the stage for a talent competition, with Effie singing lead vocals. With an original song and killer moves, they shine like stars in front of the judges. Unfortunately, they do not win, but opportunity shows itself before the band lose faith.
Music mogul Marty (Richelle Tavernier) and opportunistic entrepreneur Curtis Taylor, convince the girls and Effie’s songwriter brother C.C (Julian Mignott) that the female trio should become R&B superstar Jimmy Early’s (Kyle Brown) backup singer…The Dreamettes. After much deliberation and arguments, the girls agree, but still maintain the hope to have a solo career themselves.
Soon we see eccentric Jimmy getting popular by the second, but The Dreamettes are all the public can speak of. However, when fame is concerned, the new manager Curtis puts popularity over obvious talent. He now reforms them as The Dreams, but his choice to put curvier lead singer Effie in the back and Deena up front, sends tensions through the once close friendship. Effie becomes temperamental and accusations start flying, leading to hurtful claims, threatening ultimatums and explosive exits. With replacement Dreamgirl, Michelle (Amanda Mattar) taking Effie’s place, what is to happen of our once leading lady?
As the years pass, we get to see the true story of Dreamgirls… a tale of success, dreams and love…and how they can all come and go in a blink of an eye. But from failure comes awareness and hope, and a way to not only redeem oneself, but to finally be the best version that you can be.
All in all, I cannot express how much I loved the show. It made me laugh and cry…all at the same time. The stage was spectacular as the LOT shows always are, thanks to the magic of set designer Michael Galloro and lighting designer Mikael Kangas. But it was the fashion and style that I truly fell in love with. The 1960’s was well known for its sparkly gowns and elegant presentation, and costume designer Erin Gerofsky without a doubt kept true to that fashion era.
The cast of Dreamgirls, I can truthfully say; with hand on heart, were the best and most talented cast I ever had the opportunity of seeing perform at the Lower Ossington Theatre. Not only were their vocals and harmonies on the money, but the energy they spread out across the audience was infectious. With every scene and musical number, I found myself wishing that I had been a 60’s child in Chicago, and if that wasn’t possible… I would settle for dancing and singing on the stage with this amazing cast myself.
For once, it is impossible to pick out the stars of the show, because each and every one of them was fantastic in every way. Maddy brought elegance to each performance, Alinka was the heart of the show, Amanda provided the crowd with flawless choreography, Julian brought soulful creativity, Bobby portrayed his character with authenticity and confidence and Richelle was perfect as the no-nonsense, tell it how it is, Marty.
But extra credit for the performances of Krystle Chance as leading lady Effie and Kyle Brown as smooth moving, sweet talking singer Jimmy Early must be given.
A voice such as Krystle’s is one that comes along once in a lifetime, and I found myself understanding why the LOT wanted her to play Effie White; a character that everybody in the world has come to love. Her voice is one of the best I have ever heard, and when I listened to her perform group numbers like Dreamgirls, and Move, as well as legendary solo songs (And I am telling you) I’m Not Going and One Night Only, not only were the hairs on my arms standing up, but the people from their seats too. I actually cannot wait to see her performing again in future shows, as more people need to hear the name Krystle Chance.
Kyle Brown…what can I say? This guy brought the fun factor to the show as Jimmy, as well as the most energetic performances I have ever seen. Although keeping true to the original character, Kyle made the role his own, and made the audience crave more and more. I looked forward to every scene with Kyle in it, as his dialogue was hilarious throughout, but his choreography brought the house down. Performance numbers like Fake Your Way To The Top showed what a talent Kyle is in the entertainment and theatre industry. But for all potential theatre goers, his crowd pleasing performance of Jimmy’s Rap will have you wolf-whistling, dancing and booking future tickets to see it all over again.
If you don’t get down to see DREAMGIRLS before it ends its run, you will regret it later. This is a show to remember, and even a week later, I still cannot get the songs out of my head.
Performances are currently running and will continue to do so until NOVEMBER 19th 2017. Tickets can be purchased in person at the LOT box office at 100A Ossington Avenue, Toronto, or by online advance purchase, by clicking HERE.