REVIEW: Dreamgirls music is good for the soul as ruthless showbiz story is told at Milton Keynes Theatre

Plenty of twists and turns on this musical rollercoaster ride

By Steve Sims
Thursday, 27th January 2022, 1:42 pm

They say music is good for the soul and Dreamgirls is certain to lift your mood as the energetic musical stops off at Milton Keynes Theatre.

Meet The Dreams (or Dreamettes before they hit the big time) - Effie, Lorrell and Deena - three talented young singers in the turbulent 1960s, a revolutionary time in American music history.

But their friendship is going to be tested to the limit as they embark upon a musical rollercoaster ride through a world of fame, fortune and the ruthless realities of show business.

Dreamgirls Tour (C) Matt Crockett

For Wednesday's press night, Sharlene Hector took over the role of Effie White from Nicole Raquel Dennis, while Milton Keynes actress Natalie Kassanga played Deena Jones - the trio (all excellent) completed by Paige Peddie as Lorrell Robinson.

Their bid to become musical superstars has many twists and turns and back-stabbings along the way.

After losing out in somewhat dubious circumstances in an amateur talent show, the group and Effie's songwriting brother C.C. meet up with Curtis Taylor Jr, a car salesman who sees their potential and becomes their manager.

Played expertly by Christopher Gopaul, the ambitious and rather cunning Curtis builds up their careers.

Dreamgirls Tour (C) Matt Crockett

Curtis persuades a reluctant Effie to swallow her principles and get the group's first foot on the showbiz ladder by becoming reluctant backing singers for star Jimmy Early (Brandon Lee-Sears).

Given it's not long since panto season finished at MK, control freak Curtis is the sort of character I automatically felt like booing in appreciation of his dastardly role in show, as one by one he upset most of the characters as the story progressed along its toe-tapping journey.

Persuading The Dreams to dump Jimmy and go it alone, he upsets the applecart by replacing Effie with Deena as lead singer because they "need a lighter sound to cross into the pop charts".

Furious Effie falls out with Deena accusing her of taking the lead role and taking her man.

Dreamgirls Tour (C) Matt Crockett

Heartbroken Effie then misses some of the girls' performances, for reasons which become apparent later in Act 2. Wrongly believing her to be sulking, she gets the boot (replaced by Michelle Morris played by Brianna Ogunbawo) and this sets up Effie's rendition of 'And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going' as she appeals to Curtis not to cut her out.

It's widely considered one of the most vocally demanding songs from a musical but the standing ovation for Sharlene Hector as the curtain fell on Act 1 showed she'd nailed it.

You had to feel for Jimmy too as his career starts to wane. Brandon Lee-Sears played the showman brilliantly, and adds some real fun to proceedings, especially when he announces he's fed up of singing depressing songs and wants to give the audience something a little more upbeat - resorting to partially dropping his trousers to liven thing up!

Act 2 brings matters along a few years into the 1970s and sees Effie make a comeback, Deena dreaming of a new career path, further fall-outs and reconciliations, legal threats, more great musical numbers, and a satisfying conclusion to the story.

Dreamgirls Tour (C) Matt Crockett

For One Night Only venture out to Milton Keynes Theatre before February 5 when Dreamgirls continues its tour of the UK and you won't be disappointed. For tickets call 0844 871 7615 or see atgtickets.com/MiltonKeynes