Dreamgirls, the popular Broadway musical that has been entertaining audiences for over 40 years, is in Birmingham as part of its first-ever UK tour. The show previously concluded its acclaimed and Olivier award-winning West End run in 2019, and fans of the production have been eagerly anticipating its return.
Loosely inspired by the stories of The Supremes and other acts, Dreamgirls tells the story of a female singing group called The Dreams and their rise to fame with all its twists and turns. One of the most iconic roles in the musical theater canon is that of Effie White, played by Nicole Raquel Dennis in this production. Effie is known for singing some of the greatest songs in musical theatre, including the show-stopping number “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.”
Nicole Raquel Dennis is a natural fit for the role of Effie White, having previously covered the role in the show’s original West End run and even sung a duet of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” with Jennifer Hudson on ‘The Voice’. She commands attention from the audience whenever she is on stage, exuding star quality and charisma. Her incredible singing voice and acting ability make her portrayal of Effie one of the best in history.
Dennis is not the only standout performer in the production. Her fellow Dreams are equally brilliant, with Natalie Kassanga delivering a sweet and charming Deena Jones, and Paige Peddie stealing the show with her incredible vocals as Lorrell. Dom Hartley-Harris brings a menacing presence to the role of Curtis Taylor Jr, the Dreams’ manager and love interest for two of the group’s members, while Shem Omari James does an excellent job playing C.C. White with a sense of naivety and innocence. However, perhaps the standout performance goes to Brandon Lee Sears, who effortlessly portrays the boundless energy and complications of Jimmy Early, going from backflips to flawless vocals with ease.
The production value of Dreamgirls is incredibly high, with a fabulous set design from Tim Hatley that brings a luxurious setting on the road. While the show may not have been able to replicate the eye-wateringly expensive set from the Savoy Theatre, it still manages to impress with its detailed and visually stunning design. The choreography from Casey Nicholaw, who also directs the production, is as brilliant as it was during its previous run, bringing the musical numbers to life in a way that leaves the audience breathless.
The show boasts an impressive songbook, featuring classic girl group numbers like “Move” and “Heavy,” versatile numbers from Jimmy Early, and ensemble numbers like “Family” and “It’s All Over” that allow all of the cast to shine. But it’s Dennis’s performance of Effie’s big three numbers that truly steal the show. While she sings “I Am Changing” and “One Night Only” phenomenally, it’s “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” that everyone in the audience is waiting for. And Dennis delivers in a way that can only be described as emotional, raw, and perfect. Her rendition of that iconic number will give you tears and goosebumps and leave you clapping like you’ve never clapped before.
In conclusion, Dreamgirls is a show that has stood the test of time and continues to captivate audiences with its incredible story and stunning musical numbers. This production, in particular, is a must-see for anyone who loves musical theater, with a talented cast, impressive production value, and Nicole Raquel Dennis’s unforgettable portrayal of Effie White.