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Curiocity: Is ‘Dreamgirls’ Better Than The Movie?

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Sara Boyd Sara Pelissero
Sara Pelissero joined the WCCO web team in August of 2009. You can...
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There are only three words to describe the performance of “Dreamgirls,” which is playing at the Orpheum Theatre until Sunday. They are as follows: Fierce, Fabulous and Ferocious.

Excuse my Christian Siriano-dialogue but it truly is the only way to encompass the entire show.

Allow me to break it down for you.

The rags-to-riches story, made even more popular by the hit movie starring Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson, describes what happens when dreams come to fruition. More specifically, it’s the story of a trio of talented singers who try to work their way to the top — only to find out the hard way that it wasn’t exactly what they thought it would be.

Having already saw the movie version and enjoying that, I was curious if the stage production would hold its own. Especially when the movie’s cast had such big names and a chockfull of talent. But to my surprise, I dare say that I enjoyed the production version even more. The set design and transitions from scene to scene were flawless and yet simple. And the costume changes — oh, the costume changes — well, that could’ve been a show all on its own.

As for the “Dreamgirls” cast, I must say that they gave the A-listers on the silver screen a run for their money.

One dream chaser, a Miss Effie White, played by Moya Angela, stole the show with her powerful vocals and Diva-before-there-were-divas attitude. And this is where “fierce” comes in. I remember enjoying Jennifer Hudson’s performance as Effie in the movie and thinking, “Wow, no one could do that role any better.” Well Miss Hudson, I’m sorry to say that you may have met your match. The girl was utterly and completely fierce.

Angela played Effie to a T — driving home her “won’t do nothing for nobody but Effie” flair and yet, keeping that vulnerable underdog role alive. And just when I thought she couldn’t have impressed me more, those five famous words broke the silence and began one of the single greatest solos I’ve ever witnessed.

“Annnnnnd I am telling you.”

And with that, I literally didn’t take another breath until she was finished. I don’t know what it was but I felt like I couldn’t breathe until she did. I’ve been accustomed to watching talent in the past but I was not prepared for having talent shoved down my throat. Er, and I mean that in a good way.

The way that she just nailed that song prompted what could only come from the end of a song like that — a standing ovation. A tough feat, no doubt, in the middle of a performance.

If anyone was to compete with Miss Angela for crowd favorite, it might have been Chester Gregory, who played James “Thunder” Early. And let me tell you, the man can dance.

Jimmy Early was like a cross between James Brown and Little Richard, with a little infusion of what I like to call black Austin Powers. The man was a sleezeball, but he was so entertaining that you couldn’t help but love him. Or at least that’s the way Gregory played the part.

Jimmy got soul, Jimmy got soul. I swear I had that in my head for the rest of the night. And I couldn’t help but be reminded of that Seinfeld episode when “Jimmy liked Elaine.” Beyond Gregory’s obvious vocal talent, his dancing skills were, well, off the hook. The man did more pelvic thrusts and split jumps than any man should have to do in the course of one performance. And for that, I dub him fabulous.

And the final “F” for ferocious has to, without a doubt, go to the amazing costume changes. I was absolutely astounded with, No. 1, the beauty of the costumes, but No. 2, the extreme creativity used to get the stars from one look to another.

And that’s also why I have to give the advantage here to the stage production over the film. Sure, the film had superstars but they also had the beauty of time and editing. Gregory came into the studio on Wednesday and said in one costume change, he literally had 10 seconds to go from a party look to a tuxedo. Simply impressive.

And in another scene, Effie is wearing pants and a casual top and singing during an audition. With one strategically placed light focused on her face, she then — somehow — makes one swift move and emerges in the spotlight in a full ball gown. Just. Like. Magic.

By the end of the nearly three hour show, I was so blown away by the magnitude of vocal talent and stage presence that I felt like I was out of breath. It was amazing to say the least and fierce, fabulous and ferocious to say the most.

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