If you have one night only this summer for theater, then I am telling you to get to the Wyly Theatre and see "Dreamgirls," the best show of the summer.
The thrill of Dallas Theater Center's "Dreamgirls" is how quickly the audience connects with the show. From the first four drumbeats, the musical takes off, dropping us into the backstage of the Apollo Theatre for an amateur singing contest. We're instantly immersed into a world of wigs, costumes, bling, dance and music. And it's electric. Productions like DTC's "Dreamgirls," directed by Joel Ferrell with music direction by Michael O. Mitchell, is why we come to the theater.
The musical charts the R&B music genre in the 1960s and 1970s specifically through the prism of the rise and fall and rise of the Dreams, an all black group who loosely resemble Diana Ross and the Supremes. Deena, Lorrell and Effie (the Dreamettes) are plucked from an amateur talent contest to sing backup to the Chuck Berry-like James "Thunder" Early.
Not long after that, their manager Curtis Taylor Jr. reinvents them as The Dreams but with significant changes. In an attempt to cross over to the pop chart Curtis moves Effie, the group's talented, large-voiced lead singer to the rear to sing backup (with Lorrell) and puts Deena, the prettiest Dream with a more homogenized voice, up front to sing lead. Not only is Effie pushed to the side professionally, but personally as well when Curtis, whom she's been dating, dumps her for Deena.
Then in the compelling first act finale, Effie is finally pushed out of the group altogether. She's replaced by Michelle, who along with Lorrell and Deena achieves great fame.
"Dreamgirls" features a book and lyric by Tom Eyer and music by Henry Krieger and includes such hits as: "I'm Changing," "One Night Only" and "And I Am Telling You, I'm Not Going."
The dreamy cast includes lovely Alexis Sims who blossoms into the diva Deena. Booker T. Washington alum Kristen Bond plays the naïve Lorrell with a touch of sass. As Early, Eric Lajuan Summers steals every scene he is in. He's a powerhouse singer and dancer and is given some of the best dialogue in the show. And Derrick Davis is so good at being so bad as the morally ambiguous Taylor.
But can she sing the song? That's the question every "Dreamgirls" fan asks when they take their seat for a new production of the show. And when Marisha Wallace, as Effie, belts out "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," one of Broadway's best anthems, the answer is "Hell Yes." Singers often refer to their voice as their instrument. Well, Wallace knows how to caress and finesse every note out of hers providing shading and power while hitting every riff and note.
Set Designer Bob Lavallee provides a large, curvy runway stage that gives choreographer Rickey Tripp a large space for our Dreams to trip the lights fantastically. But it's not just the women who can move; Tripp has the large male ensemble high stepping across the Wyly stage to the delight of the audience.
Costume designer Karen Perry drapes our Dreams in a non-stop kaleidoscope of styles and colors. One set of golden gowns morph into four distinct looks in the blink of an eye. Wig Designer J. Jared Janas keeps our girls perfectly coifed.
Dallas Theater Center's "Dreamgirls" is dizzy, dazzling and delightful must see theater.
"Dreamgirls" runs through July 24 at the Wyly Theatre, 2400 Flora Street in Dallas. For information or tickets, call 214-880-0202 or visit www.dallastheatercenter.org