THE REVIEWS ARE IN!
"I laughed, I cried, I danced, I sang! South African theatre standards have been raised to another level after watching the extremely talented "Dreamgirls" cast Shimmer and Shine!" Leanne Manas, Morning Live host
"Dreamgirls is the best musical theatre experience I have ever had the privilege of watching. Every element, from the lighting to the sound design, costumes and set design is in a class of its own but the talent of every single performer on stage is what truly sets this show apart from any other. I guarantee that everyone will be blown away by this production from the beginning to the end." Neels Clasen, Stage and Television Actor, producer
"The Dreamgirls cast matches the highest levels of any international performers and the show is the path for them to enter Broadway. As an actress I am so proud of our SA artists. Viva Mzanzi, viva." Hlubi Mboya, Actress, Isidingo
"The most exciting show I have ever seen," Michael de Pinna, Actor
"Honestly, from my heart, Dreamgirls is the best show I have ever seen in South Africa". Anne Power, stage and television actress
“I thought I’d seen THE Broadway Musical… until I saw DREAMGIRLS in Jo’burg! It is quite simply BRILLIANT!” Robert Whitehead, Actor, Isidingo
"I screamed until I was hoarse and couldn't leap to my feet fast enough. I wanted them to start all over again. When I grow up I'm gonna be a 'Dreamgirl'..." Terence Bridgett, Stage and screen actor
"Dreamgirls is one of the best musical productions I've seen in SA. What an exceptionally talented cast! Brilliant!" Ilse Klink, Award-winning stage and television actress
"Before the world can watch the amazing talent on the stage of Dreamgirls, we have to support them right here at home! Completely breath-taking experience, not to be missed!" Relebogile Mabotja (Fame, Dance your Butt off, television personality)
"DREAMGIRLS is the most thrilling, energy-packed, invigorating, technically awesome show I’ve seen in years. Talent oozes from every performer – wow!" Anne Williams, Television producer.
“I have NEVER heard such THUNDEROUS applause and audience appreciation at a local show! This one's your best yet! Kudos!” Dallace Jolley, CitiGaming/Bluff Magazine
“I was blown away, from start to finish, by the sheer brilliance of our South African performers and the technical spectacle that was DREAMGIRLS… An absolute ‘must-see-show’! Bravo! Bravo!” Mark Hawkins, Choreographer, Producer, Director
"Hazel Feldman's Dreamgirls ups the ante and raises the bar for all that follow. It is a dazzling delight from start to finish, shimmering with the country's most luminous young singing talent." Christina Kennedy Business Day
"Huge voices, searing emotions, spectacular sets and a whole truck-load of glittering costumes – what more could you ask?" Jennifer De Klerk – Artslink
"This is a dynamic powerhouse production, huge in every respect, a swirling polished show that shivers the spine" Jennifer De Klerk – Artslink
Goosebumps were running up my arms, and it was nothing to do with the air conditioning. It was everything to do with the large lady on stage, bravely snuffling her way through a song after being dumped as the lead singer for being too fat.
It’s one of the most poignant moments in the razzle-dazzle Dreamgirls, a glitzy, glamorous musical with a strong plot, characters you care about and costumes that remind you how badly we all dressed in the old days.
Dreamgirls sounds as lightweight and insubstantial as cappuccino froth, but this is froth with a big bold injection of caffeine underneath. It’s the story of a trio of wannabe singers – the Supremes, perhaps - and their slow climb to fame as they’re marginalised by white music buyers and manipulated by wily black managers.
The presentation is absolutely perfect, creating an exuberant, flamboyant experience in the way that Motown music always was. Yet there’s far more substance than expected, and you’re drawn into a tale of deceit and duplicity, ambition and greed, and personal triumph over adversity, heartbreak and racism.
Lindiwe Bungane completely steals the show as Effie, the big girl of the trio whose amazing voice has the audience shrieking sometimes when she’s only half way through her songs. She’s superb, quivering beautifully through the emotional downs, soaring back undefeated, and giving us loads of backchat when she isn’t holding us enthralled with her voice.
Compared to Bungane the other female singers are lightweights, with Tracey-Lee Oliver as lead singer Deena Jones not quite having the stage presence to stand up to this force.
Dreamgirls is a Broadway show with a local cast where almost everybody shines. Bjorn Blignaut is delightful as James Thunder Early, the archetypal Motown sleazeball whose steamy groin-grinding movements inspired the pale white imitators like Elvis Presley. His power-packed voice and comic undercurrent add another layer of excellence.
The stage set is brilliant – a wall of shimmering screens that act as projectors to amplify the action, then slide around to divide the space so that back-stage drama and on-stage events can take place simultaneously. It looks simple, but it’s strikingly effective.
The lighting effects are fabulous too, and the way Effie pulls off a costume change without anybody noticing demonstrates how creative and classy the illumination is.
Costume changes are swift and innumerable, with a succession of ever more glittery outfits showing how the girls progress from young hopefuls into superstars. There’s a live band with a line-up of trumpeters and trombones giving us that authentic R&B atmosphere, while the songs have clever lyrics that carry the story forwards and explain the background. A highlight is ‘Steppin to the Bad Side’ where inventive choreography by Robert Longbottom shows how the managers began bribing DJs so their music finally got played on the mainstream radio stations.
Dreamgirls is bold and beautifully professional, with the fun supported by an admirable backbone of substance.
Dreamgirls runs at Montecasino until May 22 and at Cape Town’s Artscape Opera House from June 8 to July 24.
Lesley Stones is a former Brit who is now proudly South African.
She started her career by reviewing rock bands for a national UK music paper, then worked for various newspapers before spending four fun-filled years in Cairo, where she ended up editing a technology magazine.
Lesley was the Information Technology Editor for Business Day for 12 years before quitting to go freelance, specialising in travel & leisure writing and being opinionated about life in general. Her absolute passions are travel, theatre, the cinema, wining and dining.
Dazzling, dynamic Dreamgirls -
Peter Feldman -
Having seen the movie, with its extended plot lines, and famous names, it was fascinating to see the live show – a dazzling, dynamic showpiece of hit songs, glamorous costumes and superb performances from its South African cast. It’s a genuine triumph here.
Another important aspect of the musical, and a classic way of creating mood and excitement, is the use of the scenery, which comprises a collection of panels that slip and slide around the stage onto which images are projected. It’s a digital work of art.
The story about a female soul group, much like the Supremes, who begin their musical journey at the famed Apollo Theatre in Harlem and then attained the height of success, is a familiar one. It observes the in-fighting between members and the eventual breakaway of one character, Effie White (Lindiwe Bungane), and her own personal battle to retain her dignity and self-respect.
There is one moment in the musical which encapsulates the heart and soul of “Dreamgirls” and that is when the attractive, ambitious Deena Jones (Tracey-Lee Oliver), the shining light in the group Dreams, and the plump Effie confront each other in a battle of such vocal intensity that it leaves you with goose-bumps. This gem of a song is “Listen” and it captures the essence of dreaming and finding your place in the world.
The show, with its, clever, intricate staging, is sprinkled with so many good songs that members of the cast are given great opportunities to shine and they seize this with aplomb.
Tracey-Lee Oliver, Candida Mosoma and Hayley Christian as the Dreams sparkle every time they are on stage, belting out the numbers with style and verve. Zambian-born Lindiwe Bungane is a real find. She has a big voice and this she uses with electrifying effect on “I Am Changing, “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” and “One Night Only”
Aubrey Poo shows he is certainly ready for the big time as the sleazy, wheeler-dealer manager, Curtis Taylor, Jr, providing his character with some depth. Another stand-out personality is Bjorn Blignaut as the ego-driven soul singer, James “Thunder” Early, a role played by Eddie Murphy in the movie. Lebo Toko plays Effie’s songwriter brother, CC, and Shake “Duke” Wellington is cast as Marty. Many of the players double up in roles.
The show boasts 30 high-powered numbers and they flow intricately through a plot that swings from one scorching emotion to another. Robert Longbottom’s choreography is stylish and slick and the costumes are out-of-this-world and have to be seen to be believed. The band, under the musical supervision of Bryan Schimmel, provides a sound musical canvas upon which the artists can give off their best.
Producer Hazel Feldman and her team have pulled out all the stops in bringing to South Africa one of the classiest productions seen in a long time. Bravo!
Dreamgirls is on at the Teatro, Montecasino, until May 22, then moves to Cape Town from June 8 to July 24.
Peter Feldman has been a journalist and arts critic for over 45 years and served on The Star in various capacities for 35 years, ending up as a specialist writer on films, music and theatre. During that time he travelled extensively on assignments and interviewed many international film and pop stars, both in South Africa and overseas. He also covered some of South Africa's biggest film and musical events. He is active in the freelance field and his work over the past 12 years has appeared in a variety of South African newspapers and magazines. He writes regularly for Artslink.co.za, The Citizen, South African Jewish Report, The Sunday Independent and is a contributor to "Eat Out" Magazine. He also contributes movie reviews on Mondays to The Gordon Hoffman Easy Morning Show on 1485 Radio Today (www.1485.org.za) and has worked on TV in his specialist capacity. Over the years Feldman has been the recipient of several awards for his contribution to music journalism and the SA record industry. He wrote lyrics for some top artists, including Sipho Mabuse, and had a hit disco single, "Video Games," which was released in 1988. After retiring from The Star in April, 1999, Feldman joined the PR and events management company, Dlamini Weil Communications, where he currently works as an entertainment and media consultant.
Dreamgirls blows you away -
Jennifer de Klerk -
Dreamgirls is a Broadway classic, but I admit it’s not one that I know well. I approached it cautiously, not sure if it was my kind of music, but quite sure that the South African cast would more than do it justice.
I was quite right. This is a dynamic powerhouse production, huge in every respect, a swirling polished show that shivers the spine, especially when the music is pumping, which it does practically all the time; particularly in the second half where showstopper follows showstopper.
But there is also a strong and emotionally intense storyline, with each of the main characters having their chance to shine. Even the sleazy, manipulating manager Curtis, a powerful and nuanced performance by Aubrey Poo, has his moments of pathos.
Dominating the stage is huge-voiced Lindiwe Bungane as the strong and spirited Effie. She has some amazing moments in numbers like And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going and One Night Only.
A total showstopper is her duet, Listen, with Tracey-Lee Oliver, who plays Deena, lead singer of the Dreams, a trio of girl singers loosely patterned on The Supremes.
The Dreams, elegant Oliver, Candida Mosoma as the endearing Lorrell and Hayley Christian as Michelle are glamour personified in the most amazing range of ever more exquisite costumes, performing with polish, grace and charm.
But it is the emotions that caught me. The clever set, basically a projection screen, splits to take us both front and backstage. “I have a show to do,” becomes the cry as personal relationships give way to the never-ending need to perform. The egos are as big as the voices, the characters touch the heart.
Projection whisks us around the world as the Dreams capture the imagination of the time; lights, cameras, action, dance … slick choreography, stunning effects and non-stop energy.
It’s an American story, very American at times, but the resonances are universal, with charismatic Curtis as the puppet-master playing his own, increasingly arrogant tunes, until his puppets turn on him and find their own voices.
The music is all.
Dreamgirls is playing at the Teatro, Montecasino until May 22, then moves to Cape Town.
Jennifer de Klerk is editor of Artslink.co.za