‘Dreamgirls’ director creates welcoming environment at Goodspeed

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“Dreamgirls” isn’t one of those musicals that necessarily needs to be reimagined or reinvented. It just needs to be seen and heard in all its ’60s girl group glory.

The Goodspeed Opera House is offering that rare opportunity from November 10th to December 30th.

“Dreamgirls” ran on Broadway from 1981 to 1985, but has never been revived on Broadway, except for a brief return to New York at the end of its first national tour. There was a gap of 25 years between the Broadway premiere of “Dreamgirls” and the 2006 film version. The show’s London premiere was in 2016.

“Dreamgirls” is considered a classic, not just because of the exhilarating choreography and production ideas associated with the original 1981 Broadway production. There have been several major national tours, some of which have played in Connecticut, but this is a show that isn’t revisited often enough, and there’s no good reason for that.

“Dreamgirls” fits Goodspeed’s mission to “create and preserve American musicals, while simultaneously reinventing the classics and inventing the new.” Goodspeed also stands out in his 60-year history of his Opera House program for having a predominantly Black cast, a Black female director, and a predominantly Black design team. Masu.

Goodspeed’s production is being helmed by Chicago-based director Lily Ann Brown, whose resume includes musicals The Color Purple, Ain’t No Mo, and Passing Strange. ”, “The Wiz” and “Once”. On this island” etc.

The choreographer is Breon Urzell, who won the Chicago theater scene’s coveted Joseph Jefferson Award for Kokandi Productions’ Head Over Heels. The musical director is the talented Christie Childs Twilley, also based in Chicago, who has recently made her mark in theaters in Connecticut. This is the sound design for TheaterWorks Hartford’s “Clyde’s” smooth-piped kitchen radio.

dream woman

Diane Sobolewski

Promotional photo of stars Keisten Hodgens, Ta-Tinisa Wilson, and Treja Bostic for the new production of the musical “Dreamgirls,” which opens at Goodspeed on November 10th. (Diane Sobolewski)

Brown brought some of her most trusted allies to Goodspeed.

“My team always travels with me,” she said. “This is our 19th show with set designer Arnel Sancianco. We’re somewhere in the teens, thanks to costume designer Samantha C. Jones. Lighting designer Jason Lynch and myself. We’ve done many shows together.”

“It’s going to be pretty traditional,” Brown said of Goodspeed’s production of “Dreamgirls,” which will be her first time directing a musical. “Bringing in a new concept is like putting a hat on top of a hat. My approach is to be more holistic. It’s more about the actors, more about the perspective.

“I’m an evangelist about how to work.In theater, I talk about “creating a room.” This kind of freedom where everyone in the room is his BIPOC is rare. We also hired a black female casting director. What matters is how you do your work. How can we make this an experience that empowers actors and allows them to do their best work?”

Racial equity, openness, and caring about the work process in terms of contemporary perspectives are essentially the essence of “Dreamgirls.” This musical depicts the rise of the 1960s and ’70s Motown-style girl group, The Dreams. The story is often discouraging. Although the Dreams sometimes found themselves in a supportive environment, they were often subject to the whims, manipulation, and abuse of record business professionals trying to propel them to mainstream success. Even their trust in each other is threatened.

Integrity in performance is important to Brown, who wants to avoid “people who put on a performance of their own culture to meet the expectations of another culture.” She acknowledges that Dreamgirls was not written or directed by a black person. “But the story it’s based on was created by Black people. We’re reclaiming that perspective.”

“Dreamgirls” was originally supposed to be a show about backup singers in the pop world, and was a star vehicle for Nell Carter, then known for the musical “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and who would go on to star in the sitcom “Gimme.” It was produced as. break! When Carter left the project, it turned into the story of his burgeoning ’60s black vocal group, which had a big hit with “A Chorus Line” (and then languished a bit with “Ballroom”). Director and choreographer Michael Bennett participated. Bennett’s co-choreographer is Michael Peters, who produced music videos with Donna Summers and just a few years after “Dreamgirls” with his work on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” and “Thriller” videos. It will be highly evaluated.

The book and lyrics are by Tom Ein, who was known as an experimental off-Broadway playwright before “Dreamgirls.” The music is by Henry Krieger, who helped adapt Ein’s play “The Dirtiest Show in Town” into a musical.

Because of the writer’s non-Broadway background and the pop music environment the musical seeks to recreate, “Dreamgirls” stands out from most musicals, even those from the 1980s, when many newer musicals emerged. They have different shapes and atmospheres. The format was being tested.

For example, the most famous character in “Dreamgirls” is strictly a supporting character and not an obvious protagonist. Here’s Effie singing “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” a number that’s sure to get attention. Treja Bostic, who plays Effie in Goodspeed’s “Dreamgirls,” was in Connecticut earlier this year starring in the national tour of Aretha Franklin tribute “RESPECT,” which opened at Waterbury Palace. The show was “mostly songs and storytelling,” Bostic said. This is her first musical experience at a local theater.

“Dreamgirls” is inspired by the story of the Supremes, specifically how the group changed as it grew in popularity and then fell apart as one of its members was singled out as a star.

“Obviously, I grew up watching this movie (starring Jennifer Hudson as Effie),” Bostic said. “But I’ve never seen the show.”

The 25-year-old also doesn’t have strong ties to the music of the Supremes or other 60s girl groups. “I’m looking at this with fresh eyes. If you look for someone else’s Effie, you won’t find it in mine. Of course, this story is loosely based on a situation that actually happened. It’s about how things should have been in order to be successful back then. It’s like saying, “You have to be twice as good.” You have to be better than that. ”

One way Bostic gets into the spirit of ’60s girl groups is by making the most of costume-matching sessions. “Sparkly dresses, long dresses, cute short dresses, beautiful shoes…I get so excited every time I go to a fitting.”

Bostic’s experience at Goodspeed seems to validate Brown’s approach to making the rehearsal room a comfortable environment.

“Everyone is so beautiful and amazing,” Bostic said. “We end up asking a lot of questions. It shows in the work. It becomes true. We want to make this as authentic as possible. To tell the stories of these people correctly. They are stories that everyone can relate to.”

“Dreamgirls” will run from Nov. 10 to Dec. 30 at the Goodspeed Opera House, 6 Main Street, East Haddam. Performances are Wednesdays at 2pm and 7:30pm, Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 3pm and 8pm, and Sundays at 2pm and 6:30pm. Thanksgiving week includes a performance on Monday, November 20th. at 2pm and 7:30pm, but there are no performances on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Matinees will be added on December 14, 21 and 26, and there will be no Sunday night show on December 17 and 24. $30 to $82. Goodspeed.org/shows/dreamgirls.



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