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Review: Dreamgirls

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4 stars

Broadway Across America, Indianapolis; Murat Theatre at Old National Centre; Nov. 2-7. Dreamgirls ignited the Murat with simultaneous on/off stage vignettes propelling us into the rollercoaster lives of a 1960s Chicago foursome hungry for fame. Three singers and a songwriter/manager are manipulated into a whirlwind by Curtis Taylor, Jr., a car salesman with a "dream" to transform these aspiring artists from their rhythm and blues and soul tradition into the pop market. Swept into the mix is a solo artist, James "Thunder" Early, and Michelle Morris, a singer brought in to revamp the original Dreamettes. The story spanning across seven years is conventional — pursue a dream only to learn there has to be a solid body of values, not mere vapor, to mesh dream with reality, fame with life. What's extraordinary and remains constant to the original award-winning 1981 production is the concept of telling the story operatic-like through a continuous flow of music, movement and stage design. What's new to this production is an across-the-board 21st century update in costumes, make up, hairdos, choreography, setting, lighting, sound. It's visually awesome. At the Nov. 3 performance, Chaz Lamar Shepherd was the standout as the loose-limbed dancer-singer James Early. He delivered demanding choreography with sly ease and literally spun a straw character into gold. Patrice Covington took on the role of Effie White, the original lead singer for the Dreamettes. Her standing ovation was earned. Particularly impressive was her development of a character going from being in charge, to losing it all, to recognizing she had to adjust, forgive and reconcile to make a comeback.

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