When walking down the Strand, it is hard to miss the entrance to the grand Savoy Hotel, yet it is surprisingly easy to miss the more hidden entrance to the adjoining Savoy Theatre. Yet, with a building side covered in the large and glittering signage for this Broadway transfer musical, it certainly reaches out to grab your attention. Dreamgirls tells the story of a young trio of girls from Illinois who become singing sensations, and their trials and tribulations along the way, including romance, race tensions and the competitive side of the musical industry where songs are stolen and changed with the target of being top of the charts.
This west end transfer of the Broadway hit show is a prime example of how star casting can be both a blessing and a curse. Here, Glee star Amber Riley plays Effie White, the voice of the Dreams. Effie’s vocals lead her to stardom yet her desire to always be front and centre proves to be her downfall. Yet Effie is a character who knows what she wants and knows how to make the world see that she can not be easily beaten. And yes, Amber Riley is incredible in the role, coming across as the emotional heart of the show and her vocals are out of this world – ‘And I Am Telling You’ will knock your socks off and blow the roof off of the theatre with its brilliance and power. But then there is the downside that there always is when it comes to star casting. The cheer that rises through the auditorium when the performer makes their first appearance, the shouts of their name and the whooping and hollering throughout some of the biggest numbers in the show.
With star casting there is always the feeling that the majority of the audience seem to forget that there is more than one person in the show, which is why I was very happy to see Amber Riley bringing the cast forward as a group for the final bow rather than the final moment in front of the audience being reserved for that ‘Star of the show’.
In terms of the rest of the cast, they are great. I particularly enjoyed Asmeret Ghebremichael as Lorrell Robinson, funny and full of energy as the youngest member of the dreams. Liisi Lafontaine also shone as Deena Jones, pushed to the front of the group by the management team and torn being doing what she wants and what she is being told to do. As an ensemble cast they are brilliant and the whole show has those characters that you love and those characters which you just love to hate which just makes for a even better show. The songs are brilliant and catchy, and each performed to the highest of standards. Hit song after hit song, all sure to have you humming as you leave the theatre.
The costumes are beautiful, full of glitz and glamour and tonnes of sparkle. Under the lights the costumes glow and shimmer, adding to the overall feel of glamour of the show, the dressed up world of the music industry against the more neutral colours of the managers that you never see. And even the set works wonders, from revolving set pieces for the glamourous Dreams concerts to the simplicity of the two pillars, making up the on stage and back stage of the various theatres used throughout the show. And I have to mention the crystal curtain seen towards the end of act two. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a curtain more intricate in design or use, every droplet in its place perfectly as it is lifted to form a beautiful stage front for the trio of girls as they come onto the stage. Incredible.
In conclusion, I thoroughly enjoyed Dreamgirls, the music was great and the cast were to die for. Perfect vocals and tonnes of energy. And for the bargain ticket price I got from TodayTix (33.50 for the second row of the dress circle) there isn’t anything for me to complain about, except for the pushing and loud crowd at the stage door but that is to be expected for a show with star casting. Well worth a visit to see this west end show full of the glamour of Broadway at the beautiful if not rather hidden Savoy Theatre.