Tuesday, July 11, 2017

REVIEW: Village Theatre Saves the Best for Last with 'Dreamgirls'

Review of Village Theatre's "Dreamgirls"
Alexandria Henderson, Lauren Du Pree and Joell Weil in Dreamgirls. (Photo by Mark Kitaoka) 


Village Theatre is wrapping up its 2016-2107 season with Dreamgirls at the Everett Performing Arts Center and if you missed the show while it was performing in Issaquah, don’t make that mistake to again. Village Theatre can always be counted on to give a good show, but this production goes over many expectations. It’s not so much that Dreamgirls is a good show. It’s the exceptional talent of the performers that pushes it over the top. It is rare to see this kind of talent in Everett.

Many people are aware of the 2006 Dreamgirls movie and some have mistaken it for being the inspiration for this musical, but in fact, it is actually the other way around. The Broadway show came first. The fictional story inspired by the girl groups of The Supremes and others, the story follows the lives of three singers as they rose from an amateur night contest to national stardom. Effie White (Angela Birchett), Deena Jones (Lauren Du Pree) and Lorrell Robinson (Alexandria Henderson) make up The Dreamettes who have traveled from Chicago with Effie’s brother, C.C. (Charles Simmons), to the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York with stars in their eyes. There they meet Curtis Taylor Jr. (John Devereaux), a car salesman who convinces the four to let him become their manager. He then convinces the popular R&B star, James “Thunder” Early (Nathaniel Tenenbaum) and his manager Marty (Ty Willis) to let the Dreamettes become his back up singers.

Review of Village Theatre's "Dreamgirls"
Alexandria Henderson (Lorrell Robinson), Nathaniel Tenenbaum (James “Thunder” Early), 
Angela Birchett (Effie White), Lauren Du Pree (Deena Jones) (Photo by Mark Kitaoka)
Together, the group faces a number of highs and lows. Curtis romances Effie but he has eyes for Deena. James flirts with Lorrell even though he married, C.C. can’t seem to convince Curtis that his music writing is good enough and James struggles to stay current. The musical also deals with music written by black performers only to be resold and marketed with white singers and a totally different sound.

Dreamgirls never becomes sappy or too mired in the drama. It is full of outstanding musical numbers like, “Move, You’re Steppin’ on My Heart,” “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” and “One Night Only” that keep the story moving and your toes tapping. Visually, the show is spectacular as well. The audience is brought backstage and then to the front of the house over and over again. There are few amazing costume changes that happen right before your eyes and there are lots of lights and sparkles too.

At different times, Birchett and Tenenbaum almost steal the show. Birchett’s voice cannot be tamed and Tenebaum has the uncanny talent of performing over-the-top in character while still coming across as believable. However, Willis's portrayal of Marty does just the opposite. He frequently turns away from the characters he's talking to look straight at the audience. There are better ways of facing the audience and still stay in character. In my opinion, he is the show's only weak link.

Review of Village Theatre's "Dreamgirls"
The cast of Dreamgirls (Photo by Mark Kitaoka)


Finally, a refreshing aspect about this show is that no character is perfect as they each have their own flaws. The men aren't demons and the women saints. The story features both strong men and strong women so there really isn’t any “us vs. them” mentality that is so present in other productions and movies shown today.

Dreamgirls continues playing through July 30, 2017 at the Everett Performing Arts Center located at 2710 Wetmore Ave., Everett 98201. For more information, click on the story link below.

Related: ‘Dreamgirls’ to Finish Up Season at Village Theatre