While many people might be getting their fix of musicals from movies these days – this year’s edition of the Oscars even celebrated the movie musical – there are many good old fashioned stage shows coming to town. Vancouver’s premiere professional company, the Arts Club, keeps up the quality with their production of Dreamgirls. Dubbed the ‘Motown Musical’ and inspired, in part, by figures such as Berry Gordy, Diana Ross, and James Brown, the show follows the rivalry of two female show singers – Effie White and Deena Jones – their group “the Dreamgirls” and their conniving manager. It was made into a film in 2006, with Jamie Foxx, Beyonce, Eddie Murphy and American idol alumnus Jennifer Hudson, who won the best supporting actress award for her portrayal of Effie.
This version’s Effie – Aurianna Angelique – portrays the Diva brilliantly and gives a stunning performance of the musical’s signature song – “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going”. For me personally though, there were two standouts. The first was Ian Yuri Gardner as C.C. – Effie’s brother and confidante, and primary writer for the Dreams. He also falls in love with Michelle, who was Effie’s replacement. Gardner portrays C.C. with the utmost subtlety. He doesn’t show off or have any big show stopping numbers, yet he is always a presence at the play’s most crucial moments and I was drawn to his restraint and incredibly nuanced performance.
The second star was Daren Herbert as Curtis Taylor Jr., The Dreams’ increasingly ruthless and sleazy producer who pushes the ladies to their limits. Herbert mixes just the right amount of charm and sliminess. Although one can sympathize with him, by the time the show’s climax hits, you may find yourself really starting to despise this character.
While not a terrible a performance, I felt that the weakest link was Alvin Sanders as Marty – The Dreams original producer who clashes with Curtis. While it is hard to pinpoint one specific thing I didn’t like about his performance, overall I felt that Sanders was pushing it and trying a little too hard.
On the whole, Dreamgirls is an enjoyable musical for anyone who appreciates motown music, the history and struggle of African-American musicians, the 1970s and class warfare. Topping out at slightly over two hours, it is not a long, drawn-out experience. It is completely manageable to sit through and can draw the audience with it’s powerful ballads and soulful harmonies.
Dreamgirls is directed by Bill Millerd, with choreography by Valerie Easton and musical direction by Ken Cormier. The stage manager is Caryn Fehr. Presented by The Arts Club, it runs at the Stanley Theater until July 7th.
Photo Via The Arts Club