Previewed 19 November 2016, Opened 14 December 2016, Closed 12 January 2019 at the Savoy Theatre
The long-awaited West End Premiere of the stage musical Dreamgirls in London directed by Casey Nicholaw
Set in the USA during the late 1960s and early 1970s this musical follows the story of a young female singing trio called 'The Dreams' as they become music superstars.
Featuring music by Henry Krieger and lyrics and book by Tom Eyen. Directed by Casey Nicholaw with sets by Tim Hatley, costumes by Gregg Barnes, hair design by Josh Marquette, lighting by Hugh Vanstone and sound by Richard Brooker. Original Broadway production directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett.
When this production opened here at the Savoy Theatre in December 2016, Lyndsey Winship in the Guardian highlighted that "Dreamgirls is a musical full of sparkle. It's less about the grit and sweat of the struggle to the top, more a fantastically entertaining ride on the showbiz rollercoaster, accompanied by some brilliantly belting voices." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard exclaimed: "Dreamgirls is dazzling - a lavish and richly emotional musical that depicts fantasies of freedom and the price of success." Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail said that, "staged colourfully and slickly, it will make jolly holiday fare for many. It has great costumes and incessant dancing." Paul Taylor in the Independent wrote that "Casey Nicholaw's full-throttle, fast-moving blast of a production," offer "a great night out." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph described how "Broadway director Casey Nicholaw's slick production is so tinselly, it almost looks custom-built for Christmas... The athleticism on display, in synchronised dance moves that conjure some of the silliness as well as the sexiness of the Sixties and Seventies, is as joyous as it is unflagging." Ann Treneman in the Times commented that "Dreamgirls won plaudits on Broadway in 1981 but, 35 years later, it feels dated and formulaic... While there are some brilliant voices on stage at the Savoy Theatre, they are all miked up and they are simply WAY TOO LOUD." Neil Norman in the Daily Express noted that, "despite fabulous performances... Dreamgirls is predictable, banal and overly sentimental. The singing is far better than the mostly forgettable songs. All glitz and no guts." Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times explained that, "while it raises serious issues, however, it's not a show that digs deeply and characterisation is pretty thin. It's through the music that Dreamgirls does the talking, and director Casey Nicholaw seizes on that and delivers it with knockout energy... It's a dazzling, witty and canny staging: Tim Hatley's bling-tastic set, Nicholaw's slightly tongue-in-cheek dance routines and Gregg Barnes's fabulous costumes all draw attention away from the show's shortcomings."
The original cast featured Amber Riley as 'Effie White' (alternates Ruth Brown and Karen Mav), Ibinabo Jack as 'Lorrell Robinson' and Liisi LaFontaine as 'Deena Jones' with Nicholas Bailey as 'Marty', Adam J. Bernard as 'Jimmy Early', Tyrone Huntley as 'C.C. White' and Joe Aaron Reid as 'Curtis Taylor Jr'.
Amber Riley is best known for playing the role of 'Mercedes Jones' in the TV series Glee. She also won the Fall 2013, 17th Season of the US TV reality dancing show Dancing with the Stars with her professional dance partner Derek Hough. Ibinabo Jack's West End credits include Legally Blonde The Musical at the Savoy Theatre. Liisi LaFontaine was a finalist on American NBC television reality show The Winner Is. Nicholas Bailey is best known for playing 'Dr Anthony Trueman' in BBC TV's EastEnders. Adam J. Bernard London credits include Thriller Live! at the Lyric Theatre. Tyrone Huntley's West End credits include The Book of Mormon at the Prince of Wales Theatre. Joe Aaron Reid stage credits include the role of 'Benny' in In The Heights at the Kings Cross Theatre. Casey Nicholaw's West End theatre credits include the current shows Disney's Aladdin (Prince Edward Theatre) and Book of Mormon (Prince of Wales Theatre) as well at the musical The Drowsy Chaperone (Novello Theatre 2007).
"Casey Nicholaw's production is slick but shallow. Apart from the wigs and costumes, there is little indication of passing time. The plot is perfunctory and squeezed into the gap between songs, making it feel less like a fully-fledged musical than a glitzy nightclub act. What distinguishes the evening are the performances, above all that of powerhouse singer Amber Riley as Effie, the Ballard figure. She is well supported by a dynamic cast, including Joe Aaron Reid, Tyrone Huntley and the spectacularly nimble Adam J Bernard. But why, oh why, are these splendid vocalists amplified as if for the Wembley Arena rather than the West End stage?" The Sunday Express
"Dreamgirls finally sashays into the West End from Broadway after a 35-year wait. British fans who know this girl-group-gone-bad story from the bloated Beyoncé movie may be relieved to hear that Casey Nicholaw's stage production is a tighter, more efficient beast... Tom Eyen and Henry Krieger's 1981 musical has many pertinent themes, not least in charting how black artists had (still have?) to soften their edges to please a paler, more conservative audience... Inevitably, though, this is all encased in the general uplift of a big, barnstorming, sparkly musical; the emotion is there, but it can sometimes feel a little bit tame, ersatz. There is a neatness to proceedings that doesn't quite relay the cruelty and messiness of the themes." The Sunday Times
"Like a force of nature, Amber Riley has stormed the London stage. In the first UK production of the 1981 New York hit musical the Glee star plays Effie White, lead singer of fictional Supremes-style group The Dreamettes. For their snake-smooth, ruthless manager Curtis, Effie has more voice than looks and so he shunts Effie to the sidelines and brings fellow Dreamette Deena (the slinkier Liisi LaFontaine) to the fore. But you couldn't sideline Riley's Effie if you put her on a bus to Basildon. Right from the Dreamette's first number Move, for which Effie wears a puffball skirt that makes her look less like a performer than a profiterole, there's an irrepressible say-it-to-the-hand attitude to Riley's performance. It climaxes at the end of Act 1 with a song of operatic resistance called And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going and watching Riley sing it is like staring down a hurricane. Yet despite the infectious vigour of Casey Nicholaw's production, this show feels as if its time has passed. Much of this story about black music struggling to make it in a white-run industry has since been told in later shows that got to London earlier, such as Motown and before that, Memphis. In that sense it feels as if Dreamgirls has arrived late to its own party. Krieger's award-winning score specialises in an I Will Survive brand of defiance, but in truth none are as good as that song. So go for Riley. She has a voice that could part the Red Sea." The London Metro
Dreamgirls originally premiered on Broadway, opening at the Imperial Theatre in December 1981 and running for just under four years. The original cast included Jennifer Holliday as 'Effie White' who sung the hit song 'And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going'. The musical was made into a movie in 2006 with a cast that included Jennifer Hudson, Beyonce, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy and Danny Glover.
The musical Dreamgirls in London at the Savoy Theatre previewed from 19 November 2016, opened on 14 December 2016 and closed on 12 January 2019.