Thanks to the 2006 film starring Jennifer Hudson and Beyonce, many people know the story behind the hit Broadway musical DREAMGIRLS. Her story of the rise of a group of talented young women – first as pageant winners, then backing vocals, then to fame and success on their own – resonates with audiences who love to applaud the success of an underdog (and sometimes the drama that comes with the journey to the top). Add in hit songs, beautiful costumes and a talented cast to tell the story and you have stage magic. And that’s exactly what audiences will get with the latest production of DREAMGIRLS at the Titusville Playhouse in Titusville, FL – a visually stunning, vocally thrilling and powerful production of this classic musical.
DREAMGIRLS (with book and lyrics by Tom Eyen and music by Henry Krieger) shares the story of the Dreamettes, a girl group from Chicago in the 1960s who reunite at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, NYC after winning a pageant local talent. The three singers, Effie Melody White (Jamalia Scott), Deena Jones (Sydney Archibald) and Lorrell Robinson (Jocelyn Evans) and their songwriter, and Effie’s brother, CC (Josiah Randolph) soon find themselves in the right place at good time and are soon singing backup for flamboyant singing sensation, James “Thunder” Early (Zenni Corbin). They also find themselves with a new manager, former car salesman Curtis Taylor, Jr. (Malik Harris) and a whole new life on the road. Over time, the Dreamettes (soon to become the Dreams) learn the ups (and downs) of fame while Curtis employs sometimes questionable practices (aka payola) to ensure the Dreams continue to enjoy success. Tensions rise and musical styles evolve, all leading to an emotional climax in Act I and, of course, one of the show’s most famous songs – “And I’m Telling You I’m Not going”. In Act II, DREAMGIRLS then explores themes of recovery, renewal, growth and forgiveness as the worlds of Effie and dreams mature and take different paths to the top.
DREAMGIRLS is a musical that takes a strong direction to keep it at a pace that allows the audience to follow the characters’ journey without getting bogged down. In his direction of DREAMGIRLS, Kristofer Geddie does just that while creating through the actors on stage a real growth from naïve youth to mature, self-aware adults.
Speaking of the cast, there are stellar performances in Titusville’s production of DREAMGIRLS – most notably through the three Dreamettes/Dreams, Deena, Lorrell and Effie. Sydney Archibald’s Deena makes the biggest transformation from an innocent singer to a disco diva who takes control of her own life. Jocelyn Evans’ Lorrell is more sure of herself than other portrayals I’ve seen of the character (though still dazzled/dazzled by Jimmy), and it works extremely well. Not to mention that Mrs. Evans shows off a powerful voice, especially in her Act II number “Ain’t No Party”. And then there’s Miss Effie Melody White. DREAMGIRLS productions live or die on the shoulders of the actor playing Effie White and I’m here to tell you, Jamalia Scott gives an absolutely brilliant performance in the role. Her voice is out of this world, probably some of the best I’ve heard singing this part, and I wish I had a recording of her solo numbers to listen to on repeat. His “I am Changing” builds in intensity to a stunning ending, his “One Night Only” is filled with raw emotion and power, and his “And I am Telling You…” felt like hearing the song for the first time. time and just gave me chills. She’s everything you’d hope for in an Effie and more. Zenni Corbin’s performance as Jimmy Early is also a delight to watch, showing off some of the strong voices and acting most recently in their role as Lola on KINKY BOOTS at the Titusville Playhouse. Also noteworthy is Josiah Randolph’s performance as CC, who stands out for his solid voice and character growth throughout.
As mentioned earlier, DREAMGIRLS is known for its fabulous costumes and wigs, and Titusville’s production totally delivers in that category. Jordyn Linkous again works magic with fabric and sequins, giving us countless dresses and wigs that get more and more stunning as the play progresses. Jay Bleakney’s simple yet effective stage design relies on a circular platform and a series of suspended video screens (which are beautifully filled with cinematic touches by video designer Niko Stamos). Video can be hot and cold for me in a stage production, but it works extremely well here. Will Gibbons-Brown’s lighting not only highlights the action well, but also more than once serves as a big reveal (coupled with quick changes in Mr. Linkous’ costumes.) Gregory Omar’s choreography Osborne is strong, especially in “Steppin’ to the Bad Side,” and Spencer Crosswell’s musical direction (and sound design) is key to bringing these brilliant songs to life.
Overall, Titusville Playhouse’s production of DREAMGIRLS delivers everything one would expect from a production of this classic musical – spectacle, sparkle and powerful vocals that thrill and delight. Its message of redemption and forgiveness is more relevant than ever, and the values and quality of production delivered on stage at the Titusville Playhouse ensure that audiences leave with a smile on their faces.
DREAMGIRLS, presented by Titusville Playhouse, runs until March 27. Tickets are $25 to $35. Performances are held at the Titusville Playhouse, 301 Julia Street, Titusville, FL 32796. Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.TitusvillePlayhouse.com or by calling (321) 268-1125.
All Photos by Niko Stamos, Titusville Playhouse
Top photo: Jocelyn Evans as Lorrell, Sydney Archibald as Deena and Jamalia Scott as Effie
Middle photo 1: Jamalia Scott as Effie
Middle picture 2: Jocelyn Evans as Lorrell, Sydney Archibald as Deena and Aniah Long as Michelle
Middle photo 3: Jamalia Scott as Effie
Bottom picture: Sydney Archibald as Deena, Jamalia Scott as Effie, Aniah Long as Michelle and Jocelyn Evans as Lorrell