“Dreamgirls” is a tricky musical.
Though the storyline has epic pieces to it – love, betrayal, cultural appropriation, redemption and more – the paper-thin book of the musical barely skims the surface of those topics. There’s not a lot for an actor to sink his or her teeth into.
But what it lacks in depth it more than makes up for in glitz and glamour and music, and for a production to work, those areas need to be top-notch.
Thankfully, that’s no problem at all with Red Mountain Theatre’s production of the musical, which opened Friday and runs through Feb. 19. The cast is superb, the choreography is vibrant, and the costumes are downright stunning.
“Dreamgirls” tells the story of the Dreamettes, a Supremes-like girl group trying to make its way in the music business in the 1960s. They’re doing this amid a backdrop of civil rights struggles, alluded to briefly, and in a world where white musicians are stealing Black musicians’ sound, also alluded to briefly. And the Dreamettes are facing other struggles, not the least of which is replacing their lead singer, Effie, with another woman.
The only part of this handled with any depth is the latter, but mainly because the character of Effie has several supercharged songs that explore the subject, including the now classic “(And I’m Telling You) I’m Not Going.”
A production of “Dreamgirls” has got to have a strong singer playing Effie, and RMT finds that and more in Tracy Winborn. Yes, she nails Effie’s signature song at the end of Act I, but she may be even better with “I Am Changing,” an emotional turning point in Effie’s story.
Winborn is a star, but Vasthy Mompoint, the show’s director and choreographer, has filled her cast with stars from top to bottom. There’s not a bad performance in this production, which requires a lot from its singers and dancers.
Halo Wheeler and Chelcy Cutwright shine as Lorell and Deena, the other Dreamettes, and the guys in the cast, most notably Cameron S. White as James Thunder Early, Jeremy Jefferson as Curtis Taylor Jr. and Jalen Kirkman as C.C. White, are also fantastic.
Music director Anthony Smith brings more than 35 musical numbers to vivid life in “Dreamgirls,” helped in no small part by Mompoint’s on-point choreography and Kendra Weeks’ magnificent (and sparkly) costumes.
Those 35 musical numbers are the reasons “Dreamgirls” works, not the shallow script between the numbers. And this “Dreamgirls” works particularly well because of the depth of talent on stage and behind the scenes.