Dreamgirls is a Broadway musical, with music by Henry Krieger and lyrics and book by Tom Eyen. Based upon 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. The musical opened on December 20, 1981 at the Imperial Theatre, and was nominated for thirteen 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.
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. When Project #9 was workshopped, 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 the show was given the title Big Dreams. Joining the cast at this time was 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.
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.
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.
Clip of “Move” from the original Broadway show, circa 1982. Not the best quality, but how cool to get a glimpse of the original cast!
Clip of “Move” from the movie circa 2006
Dominion Stage Presents DREAMGIRLS
Spanning from the fabulous sixties through the arrival of disco, DREAMGIRLS follows the behind-the-scenes reality of the entertainment industry and the “business” part of show business. A musical extravaganza that follows the creation and career of a female singing trio, the show provides the highs and lows that come with fame, greed and misguided loyalties, and the need for defining what is important in following one’s dreams.
Directed by Anya Randall Nebel
Music Direction by John-Michael d’Haviland
Choreographed by Rikki Howie
Stage Managed by Phil Natalini
Produced for Dominion Stage by David M. Moretti
For more information and to purchase your tickets, click here to visit our website.
Friday, Jan 13 @ 8 p.m.
Saturday, Jan 14 @ 8 p.m.
Friday, Jan 20 @ 8 p.m.
Saturday, Jan 21 @ 8 p.m.
Sunday, Jan 22 @ 2 p.m. (Matinee)
Thursday, Jan 26 @ 8 p.m.
Friday, Jan 27 @ 8 p.m.
Saturday, Jan 28 @ 8 p.m
Gunston Theater One
2700 S. Lang Street
Arlington, VA 22206