Blackpool Winter Gardens – until Saturday 5 November 2022
Reviewed by Debra Skelton
Sensational is how I would describe the performance of Dreamgirls that is currently showing at The Winter Gardens in Blackpool. It transported the audience back to 1960’s Detroit telling the story of a small black record label and its stars through song and dance.
The show begins with three girls called the Dreamettes entering a talent show held in New York’s Apollo Theatre. Disappointed in their failure to win the contest, they attract the attention of a sly tongued talent agent named Curtis Taylor who persuades them to become a backup act to James Thunder Early, a rising pop singing star which ensures the Dreamettes to wide acclaim and success
At first Curtis falls in love with Effie, the full-figured lead singer who is the spark to the act but after trying to attempt to make them sultry by moving Deena into Effie’s lead spot he later also switches his love interest to her too. This prompts Effie to erupt into a rage prompted more by the hurt than the loss of her singing slot which causes the act to replace her with a new girl called Michelle. The Dreams (no longer the Dreamettes) continue to thrive and achieve international stardom and a string of chart-topping hits.
Life for the Dreams is not so smooth with Lorrell who has taken up with the married James Thunder Early being disappointed with the fact that he will not leave his wife and Deena who is now married to Curtis wanting to leave the act to pursue a career in the movies. As the Dreams seem to be falling apart, Effie has now become a solo act and is enjoying her return to fame.
Curtis tries to undermine Effie’s new revitalised career by ensuring that the Dreams record her current hit song in an attempt to push her down the music charts. Effie however manages to outmanoeuvre him triumphantly on both a professional and personal level.
After Deena decides that she needs to move on, it is announced that the Dreams will disband and on their farewell performance they are joined by Effie one last time before they all go their separate ways.
The music in the show was outstanding with a variety of styles from Motown, R&B, soul to the sensational ballads which brought rapturous applause from the audience throughout the whole of the show.
As to the cast, I would normally write a little something about the main cast but for this show, the whole cast was just stunning with their dancing, choreography and to me the most powerful and harmonious voices I have ever heard in a musical production, and you could tell from the vibe of the audience that I was not the only one who thought this.
The multipurpose set was used to its advantage for each scene. The use of angles and perspective was skilfully done in the blocking stage, as often the cast headed to the back of the stage, or a corner of the stage to act as if they were performing their routines and numbers whilst the audience focussed on what was happening at the front of the stage at the same time which was both brilliant and clever.
A final shout out goes to the costumes which are always a favourite of mine, and I was not disappointed with the variety from little dresses, slim fitting fish-tailed gowns, business suits to glittering sequined showstopper suits.