When my friend won a £15 front row lottery seat to a Dreamgirls matinee but couldn’t go, I jumped at the chance. I confess I had never even seen the film, but I knew Amber Riley from Glee and was, of course, familiar with the show-stopping number ‘And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going’.
Of course, I ended up with one of the days Riley was scheduled to be off. This was in no way a detriment to my experience. The role of Effie White was played by Karen Mav, who only graduated from LIPA in 2015. Mav gave a wonderful performance, with all the energy only an understudy can bring to a performance. The trio of Dreamgirls had wonderful chemistry. My favourite might have been Asmeret Ghebremichael’s ditsy Lorrell, with a pingy-ness to her voice that suited her character and was perfect for her big number, ‘Ain’t No Party’. As for the men, Adam J. Bernard was excellently, almost uncomfortably high-octane as Jimmy ‘Thunder’ Early, and Tyrone Huntley was sweet and likeable as Effie’s younger brother C.C. However, the rest of the men seemed more to be performing a role than inhabiting a character, something I find to be musicals’ eternal problem.
The best part about seeing this show for me was sitting in the front row. As an all-too-regular theatre-goer and a student, I can’t remember the last time I was in such a goof seat! Sitting almost directly behind musical supervisor and conductor Nick Finlow was a unique experience. He was incredibly involved with the other musicians – seated below him in a covered area and communicating with him via screens and mics – and the actors onstage, conducting, playing and bobbing along to the music with relentless energy. The cheeky smile he gave me once or twice only made it better.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this show. The familiar narrative and characters did nothing to intrigue or surprise, but the cast’s dedication, the powerful singing, the wonderful band and the colourful, glitzy design thrilled and delighted the audience, which gave the cast and crew a well-deserved standing ovation.
Dreamgirls is booking at the Savoy Theatre until February 2018. For more information and tickets, click here.