Thirty-five years after the groundbreaking original Broadway production, the UK and West End premiere of the sensational and iconic Tony Award-winning musical Dreamgirls opened at the Savoy Theatre in November 2016 to critical and audience acclaim.
Dreamgirls originally premiered on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre on 20 December 1981 and closed on 11 August 1985, after 1,521 performances. The London production marks the show's West End premiere, and includes new music specifically written for the new production.
Featuring music by Henry Krieger and lyrics and book by Tom Eyen, Dreamgirls is based upon the rise of music acts such as 'The Supremes' and 'The Shirelles'. It follows the story of a young female singing trio from Chicago, Illinois called "The Dreams", who go on to become music superstars.
The West End production is produced by Sonia Friedman Productions and is directed and choreographed by Casey Nicolaw, whose work in the West End includes the transfers of 'The Book of Mormon' and 'Aladdin'. With dazzling sets, beautiful costumes and an incredibly powerful cast, Dreamgirls is one show that sets the West End alight with its energy and charm.
The score features Broadway standards such as "And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going", "I Am Changing","Listen" and "One Night Only" all delivered by an incredible band of musicians and a fearless company of performers.
This much-anticipated new production of Dreamgirls starred Amber Riley (of 'Glee' and 'Let it Shine' fame) as Effie White when it opened in 2016, alongside Tyrone Huntley as C.C White, Adam J Bernard as Jimmy, Nicholas Bailey as Marty, Joe Aaron Reid as Curtis Taylor Jnr, Liisi LaFontaine as Deena, Asmeret Ghebremichael? as Lorrell and Lily Frazer as Michelle Morris.
The full cast now features Moya Angela, Marisha Wallace and Karen Mav (who share the role of Effie White), Asmeret Ghebremichael (Lorrell Robinson),Joe Aaron Reid (Curtis Taylor Jr), Brennyn Lark (Deena Jones), Tosh Wanogho-Maud (Jimmy Early), Durone Stokes (C.C. White), Delroy Brown (Marty), Kimmy Edwards (Michelle Morris), Michael Afemaré, Callum Aylott, Georgia Bradshaw, Jabari Braham, Ashford Campbell, Sanchia Amber Clarke, Nicole Raquel Dennis, Nicole Deon, Rhiane Drummond, Ashlee Irish, Emma Louise Jones, Ashley Luke Lloyd, Samira Mighty, Jayde Nelson, Aston New, Sean Parkins, Kirk Patterson, Rohan Pinnock-Hamilton, Ryan Reid, Rohan Richards and Joshua Robinson.
Dreamgirls tickets, playing at The Savoy Theatre, London are now on sale.
Dreamgirls is set in 1960’s America and tells the semi-autobiographical tale of a girl group from Chicago called “The Dreams”. As they attempt to make it in the music industry, they meet former used car salesman Curtis Taylor who becomes their manager and helps create initial success. As the group continue to build on their success within the highly competitive industry, tensions build as Curtis attempts to replace lead singer Effie with her best friend. Whilst the creators of the show have denied links to The Supremes story, there are many parallels between the plot of the musical and the career of Diana Ross.
GOING TO THE THEATRE IS LIKE HALF AN HOUR OF CARDIO EXERCISE SAYS NEW STUDY
New study from University College London, University of Lancaster and Encore Tickets examines heart rates of theatre goers Findings reveal watching live theatre produces the same heart activity as half an hour of cardio Buy tickets for Dreamgirls Watching a live theatre performance can stimulate your cardiovascular system to the same extent as doing 28 minutes of healthy cardio exercise, a new study has found.
The research, conducted by University College London and the University of Lancaster in association with Encore Tickets, the UK’s leading independent ticket provider, monitored the heart rates, brain activity, and other physiological signals of 12 individuals at a live theatre performance of Dreamgirls, the Tony and Olivier award winning musical.
During the performance, the heartrates of audience members spent an average of 28 minutes beating at an elevated range between 50% - 70% of their maximum heart rate. The British Heart Foundation identify this level of heartrate as the optimal heart rate to stimulate cardio fitness and stamina. So, although they were seated for the performance, audience members spent an average of 28 minutes engaged in healthy cardio exercise.
Dr Joseph Devlin, Head of Experimental Psychology at University College London, says: “This demonstration paints quite a clear picture that attending a live performance has an impact on cardiovascular activity.”
The study showed that two of the most interesting peaks in heartrate activity come just before the start of the interval, and at the end of the show. The soar from a lower heart rate suggesting captivated concentration, to a higher peak of arousal reflects the surge of deep emotion and energy seen on stage.
Dr Joseph Devlin continues: “By the end of the first act, heart rates nearly doubled from their resting state at the beginning, while in the second act, it tripled. You see comparable changes in heart rate in professional tennis players during burst of highly intense exertion such as long and fast rallies.”
Theatre experts at Encore Tickets note that Dreamgirls is unique amongst current West End shows as it often receives a mid-show standing ovation as well as at the climax of the show.
Over the past decade, scientists have explored a range of studies have shown that listening to music and experiencing live events can have a positive impact on our well-being. However, until now, no one has looked into the benefits of attending a live theatre performance, despite the numerous apparent effects it has. New research for Encore Tickets shows that for a third of people (33 per cent), the thing they most enjoy about the theatre is the feeling the live experience gives them, such as emotions and goosebumps. Yet, only 15 per cent have noticed a change in their breathing, whether that’s slower or faster, whilst almost one third (31 per cent) have experienced gasping or jumping in shock.
Recent advances in wearable technology have allowed scientists to gauge the emotional engagement of groups spectating and participating in performance, ceremony and social interactions. They can track various physiological signals linked to the autonomic nervous system, which in turn relates to emotion and arousal. These signals can then be averaged across audience members give an indication of the time-course of a shared experience. As part of the study, University College London neuroscientists also conducted a literature review of other research that supported their findings on the thrill of live theatre, and the interesting impact it has. One study they reference tracked the heart rate of students during a lecture, using it as a measure of their interest and engagement.
Messages from the heart are not as straightforward, however. A higher average heart rate does not necessarily indicate a higher overall emotional or cognitive engagement in a performance or a lecture. This is because sometimes at moments of deeper engagement and concentration, arousal and heart rate can decrease. What might be indicative of a richer experience is a greater range of heart rate responses, from a low heart rate of concentrated engagement to a peak of arousal. For example, the UCL neuroscientists reference another study, which tracked heart rates of audience members listening to either a live performance by a pianist, or a video recording of that performance. They found that only during the live performance did the audience’s heart beat shift in response to the tempo of the music.
Dr Joseph Devlin, says: “Within the results of the heart rate data from the theatre audience, there was a large dynamic range consistent with the fact that being in a live audience increases the emotional intensity of the experience. The results indicate that the highs and lows of the theatre performance allow for a range of emotions that can stimulate the heart and induce heartrate activity that is parallel to an exerting cardio work out.
Cast list: Moya Angela, Marisha Wallace and Karen Mav (Effie White), Asmeret Ghebremichael (Lorrell Robinson),Joe Aaron Reid (Curtis Taylor Jr), Brennyn Lark (Deena Jones), Tosh Wanogho-Maud (Jimmy Early), Durone Stokes (C.C. White), Delroy Brown (Marty), Kimmy Edwards (Michelle Morris), Michael Afemaré, Callum Aylott, Georgia Bradshaw, Jabari Braham, Ashford Campbell, Sanchia Amber Clarke, Nicole Raquel Dennis, Nicole Deon, Rhiane Drummond, Ashlee Irish, Emma Louise Jones, Ashley Luke Lloyd, Samira Mighty, Jayde Nelson, Aston New, Sean Parkins, Kirk Patterson, Rohan Pinnock-Hamilton, Ryan Reid, Rohan Richards and Joshua Robinson.
Dreamgirls Critics & Reviews
Critics rating: ***** Average press rating: **** Review by: Dom O'Hanlon
It may have taken 35 years to reach the West End but there's no denying that Dreamgirls has certainly been worth the wait, exploding onto the Savoy stage with an unbridled megawatt energy that can be felt across London. Frank Rich's original New York Times review described the show as a defining moment of Broadway history, commenting that a “seismic emotional jolt” had been felt by the entire audience. There is no doubt that this same jolt is currently being felt multiple times per performance thanks to a knock-out cast, tight band and swift direction that makes this an undeniable musical theatre phenomenon.
Loosely based on the aspirations and rise of American R&B acts such as The Supremes and The Shirelles, Tom Eyen's efficient book is set to a mostly sung-through score by Henry Krieger that blends performance music with character-driven songs. Primarily a commentary on the music industry, its links to real-life artists and acts and undeniable yet its historic relevance remains contextual and the characters themselves and their relationships within the industry are as compelling as the mirror it throws up on the machine. Tensions in the book, specifically regarding the leading characters relate back to the show's development history, and whilst the second act lacks the dramatic tension of the first it remains a show that continues to regenerate its own sparkle time and again.
Michael Bennett's original concept of making the stage show feel like a film, barely pausing for the audience to applaud or draw breath has been recreated here by director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw who stages the show in one giant sweep that continues to build momentum from the first notes to the final curtain. The work from both cast and crew appears effortless as the audience are taken on a journey that's told in such a clean and precise way that there is little time to question the frequent holes in both character and plot. Whilst Nicholaw certainly hasn't reinvented the wheel there's little need to mess with a concept that fully justifies its delivery and feels just as contemporary decades later.
The physical production is a visual treat that continues to induce gasps from the audience without relying on trickery, illusion or gigantic set pieces. From Greg Barnes' stunning costume design that places quick changes into a new realm of coup de théâtre to Tim Hatley's simple yet highly effective set design that sees towers of lights glide into positions to create clear and defined physical spaces, it's constantly stunning to watch. As a production it makes the audience work, and the narrative is all the better for it. Not once do you sit back and relax, it remains in constant, effortless motion breezing between different states, dates and times in the blink of an eye.
Amber Riley, like Jennifer Holliday before her, gives a performance of a lifetime that's unlikely to be bettered by any other modern performer in the role. Not only is her voice supple and expansive, delivering the necessary vocal gymnastics in Harry Krieger's powerful and driving score but her acting is first rate, capturing both the joy and pain of Effie whilst never over indulging. There's a raw honesty in her performance that fights against the material and raises her character above that of a belting machine, sharing her emotion solidly with the audience and fellow cast.
Far from a one-woman show Riley is matched with thrilling support from a universally strong company from Liisi LaFontaine as Deena and Ibinabo Jack as Lorrell, each finding the idiosyncrasies in their characters which results in defined and well-judged performances that never go overshadowed. Re-purposed material from the film results in a more comfortable narrative arch for Deena, with the song “Listen” now landing as an incredible eleven o'clock duet, reconciling their relationship and effectively building to the climax of the group's reunion that now feels necessary rather than arbitrary.
Joe Aaron Reid is an exceptional standout as Curtis Taylor Jr., the puppet master behind the group's journey to fame. His enigmatic stage presence combined with powerful vocal delivery helps drive their story and justifies their ongoing motion, matched by a memorable turn by Adam J Bernard as fellow musician Jimmy and a sympathetically powerful Tyrone Huntley as C.C White.
Dreamgirls may be the oldest new musical on the block and it's one that arrives with an automatic fan base yet it fully lives up to, and in many cases exceeds expectations. An electric megawatt of a musical and a sure fire West End hit, it's much more that a “One Night Only” event; this is a show that commands multiple visits to fall in love with it over and over again.
Dreamgirls Tickets are now on sale
What the Press Said...
"Dreamgirls is a musical full of sparkle. It's less about the grit and sweat of the struggle to the top, more a fantastically entertaining ride on the showbiz rollercoaster." Lyndsey Winship for The Guardian
"A show with tremendous gusto of soul and gaiety of spirit." Dominic Cavendish for The Telegraph
"The show is not quite wide or deep enough dramatically, in my view, to qualify as a great musical but this (ahem) supremely confident production provides, to be sure, a great night out." Paul Taylor for The Independent
"Director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw's zestful, spectacularly entertaining and at times overwhelmingly stirring production is irresistible." Demetrious Matheou for The Hollywood Reporter
The Savoy Theatre that stands today opened on 21st October 1929. The first production to play in this theatre was a revival of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers. There had previously been another theatre on this site which had opened on 10th October 1881. Designed by C. J. Phipps, the building was known for being the first public building to be lit entirely by electricity. It was commissioned by Ricahard D’Oyly Carte to replace the old Savoy Palace that had stood on the same site. It was intended to be the theatrical home of the Gilbert and Sullivan comic operas, which would eventually become known as the Savoy operas. The interior took on the style of the Italian renaissance, with shades of gold, pale yellow and white ordaining the space, flanked by red boxes and lined with dark blue seats. Intricate detailing seen in other West End theatre auditoriums at the time was dismissed in favour of a plainer style, so as not to deter the target middle-class audience.
This building was demolished in 1929 and reopened later in the year as the building we see today. The theatre was completed with an elaborate interior by designer Frank A. Tugwell. The ceiling was painted to look like an April sky, the seating was upholstered in various colours, and the walls were an art deco creation of translucent gold on silver. When a fire ravaged the theatre in 1990, destroying the interior, it was meticulously restored by Sir William Whitfield to the original 1929 designs. The theatre reopened on 19th July 1993.
The D’Oyly Carte Opera Company has played several seasons at the theatre over the past 20 years, their last production being HMS Pinafore in 2003. The theatre has also housed several musicals, including She Loves Me in 1994 starring John Gordon Sinclair and Ruthie Henshall, and has played host to musicals exclusively since 2006.
The theatre is currently owned by the Ambassador Theatre Group.
The auditorium has three levels - Stalls, Dress Circle and Grand Circle.
In the Stalls, the overhang of the Dress Circle affects the view from Row O onwards, but the legroom throughout is very good, and the seating is well raked to ensure good views.
In the Dress Circle, the overhang of the Grand Circle affects the view from Row K onwards. The amount of legroom also decreases the further back you sit.
The Grand Circle feels rather far from the stage, and the legroom at this level is not great.
Facilities At Savoy Theatre
Seat plan: Savoy Theatre Seat Plan Facilities: Air conditioned Bar Disabled toilets Infrared hearing loop Toilets Wheelchair accessible
Access description: Access to the main auditorium through a side entrance from the Embankment side of Carting Lane. The Box Office can provide a map showing the route (approx. 100m from main entrance). Carting Lane is fairly steep – helper needed, please inform the Box Office at the time of booking and contact the Stage Door on arrival. From here, access is level to the front of the Dress Circle. 2 spaces for wheelchair users on the right hand side. Companions can sit nearby in F1 or 2. Transfer seating is available to F1 in the Dress Circle. Each wheelchair user must bring a non-disabled companion with them. Call 0207 845 6050 for assistance.
Sound Amplification: Radio receivers with headsets – collect from Cloakroom at Dress Circle level. Please book in advance, deposit required.
Guide Dogs: Guide dogs allowed in the auditorium or staff will dog-sit by prior arrangement office. Dogs will be looked after in the Manager’s Office.
Disabled Access: No steps to Box Office through 3 sets of double doors which open inwards. Box Office counter is to right. From a door beside the foyer entrance there are 2 steps into the Upper Circle. 33 steps down to Dress Circle (2 steps between rows), 71 down to Stalls. Staircases have handrails on both sides. Separate entrance for wheelchair users or special needs at street level via a ramp from Carting Lane.
Toilets: Women’s and men’s toilets are 20 steps up from the Dress Circle, between Dress Circle and Stalls, at Stalls level and at Upper Circle level.
Disabled Toilets: Adapted toilet to the right of the Dress Circle
Nearest tube: Charing Cross Tube lines: Bakerloo, Northern Location: West End Railway station: Charing Cross Bus numbers: (Strand) 6, 9, 11, 13, 15, 23, 87, 91, 139, 176; (Aldwych) 59, 68, 171, 172, 188, X68, RV1 Night bus numbers: (Strand) 6, 23, 139, 176, N9, N11, N13, N15, N21, N26, N44, N47, N87, N89, N91, N155, N343, N551; (Aldwych) 188, N68, N171 Car park: St Martin's Lane Hotel (5mins) Within congestion zone?: Yes Directions from tube: (5mins) Head out onto the main road Strand. Go right 200 metres and the theatre is on your right.