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Riverside Dinner Theater Dreamgirls

By • Oct 12th, 2011 • Category: Reviews
Dreamgirls
Riverside Dinner Theater
Riverside Dinner Theater, Fredericksburg, VA
Through November 20th
3:10 with one intermission
$46-$58/$40 Children (includes dinner)
Reviewed October 8th, 2011

Dreamgirls is a musical with book and lyrics by Tom Eyen and music by Henry Kreiger. It is based loosely on the rise and fall of fame by Diana Ross and the Supremes. Dreamgirls is the story of the Dreams their rise to the top in the pop charts back in the 1960s and their later fall from grace in the ’70s. Some powerful singing and heart felt emotional pleas made this an emotional night. If only the sound had been as consistently good.

The Dreams singing group was a core group of strong ladies. Ashley L. Ware, Carlita V. Ector and lead singer (at least for the first act) was Kadejah Oné. Lorrell Robinson was the perkiest of the trio. She could get mad as a hatter one minute and then be warm and cuddly the next. Deena Jones became the lead singer in the second act. Her voice was strong, and her drive to better herself was convincing. She and manager/husband Curtis Taylor,Jr. had some serious scenes together. Their last scene together was so well done and strong. The woman with the strongest most powerful voice by far was Kadejah Oné as Effie. She could really belt it out. Unfortunately this occasionally caused problems in the sound system. Effie’s emotional scene to end act one was so powerful and so emotional it got a standing ovation to bring the curtain down.

The comic relief was Jimmy Early the R&B singer, played with zest by JoNathan Michael. He allowed the Dreamettes to sing backup with him. A great singer, dancer, and “ladies man” (at least in his eyes) Michael kept the music lively and the energy high. His song in the second act when he decided he was tired of playing sad songs all the time and decided to let loose by singing “Ain’t No Party” in his own style received a nice round of applause and laughter from the audience. All of the Dreams sounded strong and their acting was smooth.

David P. Stock’s set was fairly minimalist, featuring either stage lighting trees that were wheeled around quite effectively to show us what was happening backstage, or a series of stairs and platforms. Phil Carlucci’s lights were a bit dark at times, although that may have simply been a side effect of not having “walls” on stage to reflect light back towards the actors. Gaye Law’s costumes looked fantastic. And a crackerjack stage crew allowed for smooth transitions throughout the evening.

Powerful voices combined with raw emotion made for an electric evening. Perhaps adding sound that was not scratchy or inconsistent could have made Dreamgirls a perfect evening.

Director’s Notes

When Broadway history is being made, you can feel it. What you feel is a seismic emotional jolt that sends the audience, as one, right out if its wits. While such moments are uncommonly rare these days, I’m here to report that one popped up at the imperial theater last night…

This is how Frank Rich began his New York Times review of Michael Bennett’s Dreamgirls upon its Broadway opening on December 20, 1981.

I remember seeing the show in previews and being awestruck at the blazing achievement of the original production. It made an impression on me that nothing else could capture that same excitement for a long while.

Loosely based on the story of Diana Ross and the Supremes, Dreamgirls continued Broadway’s love affair with backstage stories and the seamier side of showbiz. Way before Jersey Boys, this show created a revolutionary cinematic style of staging constantly moving the action and story along, shifting and dissolving from scene to scene. It expresses itself on many levels and utilizes the brilliant R&B-infused score by Henry Krieger to capture the musical fashion of the 1960-70’s. Tom Eyen’s dynamic book and lyrics are not afraid to explore the hard-edged picture of corruption in the music world and what it took for black artists to cross over into the white mainstream.

Following the Broadway production’s accumulation of six Tony Awards, the 2006 film version, starring Beyonce Knowles, Jennifer Hudson (Academy Award) Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy, introduced the Dreamgirls story to a new generation. In our decade of wannabe stars and reality television, the timing for Riverside Center to present this show is ideal since it powerfully explores the consequences that come with fame and fortune.

To me, Dreamgirls is an ageless story about the little girl who wants to be a star and the price that is extracted for fame. And that the story is universal and much deeoer than its surface-it’s about family and redemption.

I believe Dreamgirls is one of the all-time best musicals, with the most exhilarating first act in terms of structure and movement. I will never forget experiencing the Act one ending and its now legendary showstopper And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going. This five –minute aria was a cry of protest of such anguish and emotional power that the audience present was taken to the point of explosion.

I am thrilled to have directed Dreamgirls for Riverside Center, but I must admit it has been a huge challenge and an awesome responsibility. What you see today could not have been achieved without an extraordinary cast and an accomplished production team. My gratitude goes out to Christopher Noffke and Jason Michael for their vision and expertise. My thanks also to David Paul Stock and Phil Carlucci for their brilliant set and lighting design.

You will witness an abundance of talent on the stage, but it is mutual love, respect and commitment of this company that makes these performances so special. It is my hope that you will feel this love and allow yourselves to be a part of the dream.

Patrick A’Hearn

Photo Gallery

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Photos provided by Riverside Dinner Theater

Cast

  • The Stepp Sisters: TaLon Thomas, Ashlee James, Elssa Taylor, Yolanda Kent
  • Charlene, backup singer for T.J. Early: Kimberely McDowell
  • Joann, backup singer for T.J. Early: Jasmine Banks
  • Marty, theatrical agent for T.J. Early: Phillip Rameriz
  • Curtis Taylor, Jr., Cadillac dealer, manager of the Dreamettes: Lessinger Grimes
  • Deena Jones, Dreamettes backup, later lead singer: Ashley L. Ware
  • Lorrell Robinson, Dreamettes backup singer: Carlita V. Ector
  • Effie Melody White, Dreamettes lead singer: Kadejah One
  • M.C., Apollo Theatre Master of Ceremonies: Anthony Williams
  • Tiny Joe Dixon, winning talent contest singer: Brandon Martin
  • C.C. (Claridge Conrad) White, Composer and Effie’s brother: DeMarcus Bolds
  • Little Albert and the True Tones, male vocal quintet: Michael Bryant, Ricardo Coleman, Kenny Gary, Gregory Omar Osborne, Alexander Smith
  • Jimmy (James Thunder) Early, noted “soul” singer: JoNathan Michael
  • The James Early Band: Michael Bryant, Ricardo Coleman, Kenny Gary, Brandon Martin, Gregory Omar Osborne, Anthony Williams
  • Michelle Morris, relacement singer for Effie: TaLon Thomas
  • Wayne, record producer and director: Kenny Gary
  • Dave and the Sweathearts, vocal group: Alan Schlichting, Alyssa Bornschein, Carley Burtt
  • Frank, press agent: Alexander Smith
  • Jerry Norman, nightclub owner: Jason J. Michael
  • Carl, nightclub pianist: Alan Schlichting
  • The Five Tuxedos, male vocalist quintet: Ricardo Coleman, Kenny Gary, Brandon Martin, Anthony Williams
  • Les Styles, girls backup quartet: Dana Foddrell-Bland, Jasmine Banks, Alyssa Bornschein, Carley Burtt
  • Edna Burke, applause meter reader: Dana Foddrell-Bland
  • Dwight, TV studio director: Jason J. Michael
  • Ben, TV studio stage manager: Ricardo Coleman
  • Brian, orchestra bass player: Brandon Martin
  • Mr. Morgan, Effie’s lawyer: Jason J. Michael
  • Sam, backstage security guard, Chicago: Ricardo Coleman
  • Ensemble: Jasmine Banks, Alyssa Bornschein, Michael Bryant, Carly Burtt, Ricardo Coleman, Dana Foddrell-Bland, Kenny Gary, Ashlee James, Teriyaki Jefferson, Yolanda Kent Brandon Martin, Kimberly McDowell, Jason J. Michael, Gregory omar Osborne, Phillip Ramirez, Alan Schlichting, Alexander Smith, Elissa Taylor, TaLon Thomas, Anthony Williams
  • Dance Captain: JoNathan Michael
  • Understudies
    • Effie White: Dana Foddrell-Bland
    • Curtis Taylor, Jr. Ricardo Coleman
    • Deena Jones: TaLon Thomas
    • Jimmy Early: Anthony Williams
    • C.C. White: Kenny Gary
    • Lorrell Robinson: Ashlee James
    • Marty: Alexander Smith
    • Michelle Morris: Elissa Taylor
  • Ensemble Swings: Hannah Martino, Thomas Cleary

Technical Personel

  • Produced by: Rollin E. Wehman
  • Directed by: Patrick A’Hearn
  • Musical Direction by: Jason J. Michael
  • Choreography by: Christopher Noffke
  • Scenic Design by: David P. Stock
  • Lighting Design by: Phil Carlucci
  • Costume Design/Coordination: Gayle Law
  • Scenic Artist: Matthew P. Westcott
  • Production Manager: Sharon Gregory
  • Assistant Director: Christopher Noffke
  • Stage Manager: Ben Feindt
  • Associate Artistic Director for Riverside Center: Patrick A’Hearn
  • Technical director and Lighting Designer: Phil Carlucci
  • Assistant Stage Manager: Ashton Banks
  • Senior Stage Technician: Paul Johannes
  • Senior Stage Technician: Steve Thompson
  • Senior Stage Technician: Thomas Cleary
  • Stage Technician Swing/Set Carpenter: John Mahon
  • Stage Technician Swing: Dane Anderson
  • Stage Technician Swing: Taylor Boyle
  • Stage Technician Swing: Jessie Croke
  • Lighting Technician/Stage Technician Swing: Kevin Cleary
  • Lighting Technician Swing: Nicky Mahon
  • Robert Walpole, Senior Audio Technician
  • Costume Master: Christopher Hlusko
  • Master Set Carpenter/Welder: Curtis Craddock
  • Master Scenic Artist: Matthew Westcott
  • Scenic Painter: Maria Duke
  • Properties Mistress: Kylie Clark
  • Wardrobe Coordinator: Patricia Lynch
  • Dresser: Kendall Mostafavi
  • Dresser: Sally Roehl

Disclaimer: Riverside Dinner Theater provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.

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