Thursday, November 19, 2009

You're Gonna Love Me

Having missed the original production of Dreamgirls, being at the time a Californian, it was a genuinely galvanizing experience to return from Venice, where the whole city is theater, and be in the audience at the Apollo, and be thrilled to be a New Yorker. Though the production, in previews, has some technical and timing kinks to work out, it is genuinely dazzling,electronic magic being employed to the max,costumes and watching them be changed into before your very eyes a cue for ooos and aahs, and last, but far from least, a couple of performances that are knockout.
Moya Angela, as Effie, the star turn on the distaff side even if (or probably because she's demoted from lead singer, and tossed aside romanrically, is heart-wrenching and ear-amazing, with pipes as impressive as her big eyes are sad. Syesha Mercado as Deena Jones, the (do we have to pretend we don't know?)Diana Ross character is pretty and likeable, not easy to achieve in that part. (I have friends who rented their home in the tropics to Diana Ross, who went out their beachfront and into the ocean at the height of her fame, met a Swede who actually didn't know who she was, and was so astounded she married him.) Adrienne Warren is adorably little and winning as the youngest in the trio, Lorell. Chaz Lamar Shepherd as Curtis Taylor, Jr., the engine and the turncoat of the Dreams' career, is not very appealing, but that might be the part. Trevon Davis as C.C. White seems a little lost, but it is early in the game.
The big discovery is Chester Gregory, as James 'Thunder'Early, who tears his role apart, hoots, hollers, sings, dances, falls to his knees and then falls up again with seeming effortlessness, so many times I stopped counting, and could probably hang by his nose from the ceiling if called upon to do so. Charismatic and so deliciously sweet, that even the outrageous ego of the part he plays is not enough to make you think he might be other than lovable. Talent is too mild a word.
Watching not just the stage, but the audience, I clocked the reactions of Michael Bennett's lawyer, now the producer of this revival. He was a happy man.