Dream Girls at Ivoryton

By Karen Isaacs

Ivoryton Playhouse is presenting what they bill as their biggest production to date: the musical Dreamgirls.

The musical which has also been a hit film, tells a fictionalized version of how The Supremes came into being and the emergence of Diana Ross as a superstar.

In Dreamgirls, three young girls come to New York to make it as a girl group --they are soon singing back up for a rhythm and blues star and under the manipulative aura of a hustling would-be agent. The three singers each has her difficulties - Deena falls under the spell of the womanizing but married r and b star, Lorrell resists but eventually falls for the agent Curtis Taylor, Jr. (read Barry Gordon) and Effie the lead singer has multiple challenges. She too falls for Taylor PLUS she gets demoted and then kicked out of the group in favor of the more bland voice and svelte glamorous looks of Lorrell.

The challenges continue until the finale when Effie makes a comeback, Deena dumps the r and b star and Lorrell realizes Curtis' true colors.

Director Lawrence Thelen has done a good job with the large cast that includes five Equity performers. Sheniqua Denise Trotman shines as Effie and Damian Norfleet is perfectly slimy as Curtis. Jennlee Shallow and Ashley Jeudy as Deena and Lorrel also stand out. The dancing choreographed by Todd Underwood captures the period nicely.

Despite a limited budget, Ivoryton has put a very good production.

I do have a few quibbles. This show needs glamorous costumes, and despite the expanded budget, too many of them looked less than spectacular. Secondly the nine piece orchestra which is situated behind the stage too often drowned out the singers and the dialogue when there was underscoring. That may be the fault of a less than perfect sound system. I was sitting in the balcony and it was very difficult at times to hear the performers.

Dreamgirls shows that even smaller theaters can do big shows. It is at Ivoryton Playhouse through Sept. 1.

This review aired on WHNU 88.7 fm and www.wwnhu.net.

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