On Monday, (the 1st of May 2017), Christina and I went to see Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre. Before I tell you all about it, let me fill you in on the backstory…
It all started on my birthday. My sister got us tickets to see Phantom at Her Majesty’s Theatre (post soon to come too, I’ve gone rogue and abandoned chronology). Experiencing Phantom live for the first time set alight a fire in me (oh, how theatrical I’m becoming!), and renewed my love for the medium of Musicals, and so I decided that I simply must take as many in as I possibly could.
So I went on a little hunt – where could I get the best tickets for the least amount of money? (woes of a recent graduate). I discovered an app, called todaytix, which sells tickets for shows no more than a week in advance. Because they’re only a week in advance, the tickets are generally much less expensive than they typically are, because theatres want to fill their seats! Thus, the adventure that Dreamgirls became was born.
I found tickets to Dreamgirls starting at £23! So, I frantically messaged one of my friends. Chrissy and I have a shared love of musicals, so I thought she’d want to come too. Todaytix (seemingly) works on a first-come-first-serve basis. You put in where you want to sit (stalls, dress circle, grand circle, and so on) and your price range, and they select the best available seats. I saw there were stalls tickets left, so I figured what the hey?! Let’s just see where the seats are and how much they’re going for £42.50 each for seats in stalls?! We’d be mad not to! So I booked them, and the date was set.
Now that you’re all caught up, let’s get back to the show. Chrissy and I met at Marylebone early on Monday evening, and wandered up to Pizza Express to grab some dinner before we headed to the Savoy Theatre. The meal was great; we got seated immediately and enjoyed our dough balls and pizza while we caught up about, well, everything that had been going on in our lives since we’d left university. Our detailed catch up meant that we cut seriously into our travel time from Baker Street to Embankment. So the show started at 19:30. After pacing it – up the (multitude) of stairs and escalators at Embankment, running along Victoria Embankment and then running up the hill to the Theatre Entrance, we made it at 19:30 exactly (thank. you. Jesus). The stewards ran us down to our seats in stalls in about a minute, and about five minutes later, Dreamgirls started.
What. A. Show.
So we were three rows back – we could see everything, from the conductor to the sweat dripping off the ensemble’s faces as they danced. The whole production was incredible, and we didn’t feel like we were missing out because Amber Riley wasn’t performing that day. (In all honesty, our motivation was Dreamgirls rather than Mercedes from Glee).
We’d both expected vocal performance to be the main focus of the show, so we thought that the dance routines throughout would be just a smidge less good than the truly phenomenal singing. All of that changed about halfway through the first act, when the cast and ensemble performed “Steppin’ to the Bad Side”. Joe Aaron Reid led the ensemble through the number with such cohesion, and the choreography really stepped up from “Steppin’…” onwards. Joe Aaron Reid has definitely come a long way since he was a dancer in “Smash”. (I’m mildly ashamed that I watched both seasons of the show but hey, it’s a guilty pleasure. I love it). He performed with such charisma and exuded the confidence and cocky self-assuredness that I, personally, had always imagined Curtis Taylor Jr to carry himself with.
Marisha Wallace (lower left) played Effie on Monday, and she was fantastic. Her voice was so powerful, but still so endearing. Her performance of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not I’m Not Going” and then “I Am Changing” showed the versatility of her voice and the control she has took my breath away at least three times. I didn’t at all feel like the quality of the show or any of the songs suffered from Amber Riley’s absence, which is always an incredible sign, because it shows that the show doesn’t rely on Amber Riley’s celebrity for its success. Dreamgirls has had to extend its season on the West End because it stands without Amber Riley so well. Amber Riley is amazing in the show too, of course, but I’m just chuffed that the show doesn’t necessarily need an Amber Riley to do well.
The set design and staging were amazing too. The staging was super movable, so it created really simple and effective frames for each scene. I loved how Krieger made the passage of time perceivable in little ways throughout the show: there was so much attention to detail there that I really admired. The book by Tom Eyen added another dimension to the story, particularly effective when appreciated in combination with Willie Reale’s addition of “Listen” (originally written to be part of the film). Dreamgirls was given another layer, one which could resonate with audiences no matter their age or experience; that of the struggles a friendship can go through over the years. “Listen” sung as a duet by Effie and Deena blew me away. We all know Beyonce’s version, (we’ve all sung it passionately into our loofas in the shower) but turning it into a duet transformed the song (literally, too) from one voice’s struggle to find herself and her dreams and into two powerful, strong women, supporting each other to shape the futures they want for themselves. (There’s a chance that I’m too much of a feminist but I like my interpretation of the duet!)
Overall (if you couldn’t tell from my gushing) I absolutely adored Dreamgirls. I would heartily recommend it to anyone who’d listen, and I definitely hope I’ll see it again soon!
Next post to come soon!!