Dominion Stage DreamgirlsBy Xandra Weaver • Jan 16th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
Gunston Arts Center, Arlington, VA
Through January 28th
2:30 with one intermission
Reviewed January 13th, 2012
Dominion Stage has just opened a stunning new production of Dreamgirls. The musical, directed by Anya Randell-Nebel, is a spectacle of color, sound and soul.
Based off of real life female singing acts like “The Supremes,” the play starts with a blast of sound as the three girls arrive late on the set of an amateur talent show, sure that they will win. Effie, played by Shawnee Louise Coleman-Lining, sings lead, while Deena (Kimberly Braswell) and Lorrell (Kristin Lee) sing backup and let Effie call the shots. When Cadillac salesman turned agent Curtis Taylor, Jr (Jivon Lee Jackson) steps in, he smoothly interrupts the Dreamettes flow and begins to turn them into “The Dreams” with himself as their manager. He starts them with a run as backup singers to fading star Jimmy Early, played by Malcom Lee, whose big band sound is rapidly losing ground to ballads and pop tunes. At first, Curtis tries to force Jimmy into the mold of the new sound, but then steps away to focus on the Dreams when it seems the battle with Jimmy is lost.
Meanwhile, Curtis and Effie become an item, which only serves to crush Effie’s spirit when Curtis decides that for the good of the group, the slender Deena should become lead, despite both girls protestations that her voice isn’t nearly strong enough. As Effie fights a losing battle to keep her spotlight and her man, Curtis decides she’s not worth the trouble, and hires a new girl to replace her. Forced out on her own, with the rest of the group unaware she is pregnant with Curtis’s child, she must find her own path to stardom, alone.
This production has a large cast of energetic people. Besides the main cast, there are backup dancers, reporters, and other singing groups that brought life and energy to the stage, which was painted brightly but simplistically in primary colors. The stage setup allowed for a lot of space to move and dance in, which could have left it somewhat empty for the smaller numbers. However the personalities and vibrancy of the actors filled the whole area. Most notably, Effie was a powerhouse of sound and emotion, capturing the attention of the viewers and embodying the drive of the story.
Also of note was Malcom Lee as Jimmy, who often stole the show in a wonderful way, having the audience in stitches with his playful antics and charismatic performance and hilarious facial expressions.
The only mark on the production was the hit or miss quality of the costumes. The costumes for the women really only fit well, looked good and accentuated the story about half the time, the rest were either too big or just made for different body types than the women who wore them. One dress had obviously been expanded to fit the main actress’s wonderful curves, but the different shade of fabric was added rather visibly to the sides of the zipper, and could have been hidden with a drape of fabric down the back instead of left open. Overall though, the production achieved a level of color and spectacle not often seen in community theater, especially when considering that the show demanded that costumes be changed for practically every single scene.
Musically, it is one of the more difficult and demanding scores one can attempt. Every main character has multiple solos and moments where they must push their voices to the limit to achieve the soulful and power filled notes that the score demands. All together, there were few moments where the cast was not giving their all for the show, to bring Dreamgirls to life for the audience and show the heartache and the glory of the spotlight.
Photos by David Segal Photography
- Film Executive, Les Styles: Rebecca J Adelson
- Dave, Film Executive, Announcer, Dwight): Joseph Aquilina
- Wayne, Tru-Tones, James Early Band, Five Tuxedos, C.C u/s: Taurean Maray Barber
- Deena Jones: Kimberly Braswell
- Film Executive, Les Styles, Edna Burke, Ms. Morgan: Stephanie Ann Brown
- C.C. “Claridge Conrad” White: Dejon Campbell
- Effie White: Shawnee Louise Coleman-lining
- Marty: Demetrius Durrell
- MC at Apollo Theatre, James Early Band: Andre Fowlkes
- Little Albert, James Early Band, Five Tuxedos, Security Guard, Jimmy u/s: Willie Garner
- Stepp Sisters, Lorrell u/s: Shar-nay Gaston
- Frank, Tiny Joe Dixon, Marty u/s: Monto Hilaril
- Curtis Taylor, Jr.: Jivon Lee Jackson
- Michelle Morris, Stepp Sisters, Effie u/s: Shanice Jones
- Sweethearts, Les Styles, Stage Manager: Sally Kiernan
- Lorrell Robinson: Kristen Lee
- Jimmy “James Thunder” Early: Malcolm Lee
- Tru-Tones, James Early Band, Five Tuxedos, Jerry u/s: Maverick Lemons
- Tru-Tones, James Early Band, Film Executive, Five Tuxedos, Tiny Joe Dixon u/s, Frank u/s: PJ Mitchell
- Stepp Sisters: Angie Rodgers
- Tru-Tones, James Early Band, Jerry Norman, Five Tuxedos, Curtis u/s: Vincent W. Rowe, Jr.
- Charlene, Michelle u/s: Caelyn Sommerville
- Stepp Sisters, Deena u/s: Jacquelyn Williams
- Sweethearts, Les Styles: Erica Wisniewski
- Properties Design, Wardrobe/Wig Manager: Helen Bard-sobola
- Sound Designer: Keith Bell
- Lighting Designer: Hal Crawford
- Music Director, Assistant Director: John-Michael d’Haviland
- Hair Design: Malca Giblin
- Choreographer: Rikki Howe
- Producer, Set and Scenic Paint Design: David M.Moretti
- Stage Manager: Phil Natalini
- Makeup Design: Larissa Norris
- Director: Anya Randall-Nebel
Disclaimer: Dominion Stage provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/7544.
Xandra Weaver has a great love of the process of theater and the creation of art that has led her into working both behind the scenes and onstage. Her career includes working for many years providing sound and lights for both professional and amateur shows as well as makeup work for a feature film. At college, she specialized in makeup to earn her theater degree, and discovered a love for directing and playwrighting. She's also been a nominee for the DC area theater WATCH awards for her work with the company of The Producers with The Arlington Players.