And She's Telling You...

Just as this show's girl-group, The Dreams, get a makeover on their way to stardom, the show itself has received an overhaul by director-choreographer Robert Longbottom. Though set in the 1960s, the 1981 musical now benefits from 21st century technical glitz on Robin Wagner's video- and light-heavy industrial-metal scenery. Moving at a nonstop gallop through its series of short, choppy scenes and big ballads, this Dreamgirls lacks only big-name stars to make it a major revival. Instead, the international tour boasts only an American Idol runner-up, Syesha Mercado, as a "star." She plays Deena Jones, the Diana Ross-ish character who earns the lead spot in front of the group the old-fashioned way: by being thinner and prettier than the better singer, Effie (Moya Angela). When Effie finds out she's been demoted to backup, she launches into the act-one showstopper, "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going," a song that's been chewed up and spit out by way too many singers as the fat girl's lament. (Jennifer Hudson, still chubby then, won an Oscar for her turn as Effie in the 2006 film version, then embarked on a diet program and now looks positively Deena-esque.) The show-stealer is Chester Gregory as the James Brown character, Jimmy "Thunder" Early. Think Eddie Murphy was good in the part in the film? Get a load of Gregory (who played the lead in a short-lived New York production of The Jackie Wilson Story), who whips the audience at the Music Hall into an adoring frenzy with his knee drops, head pops and Prince-like strutting. He's the dream here. Through July 18 at the Music Hall at Fair Park, 901 First Ave. 214-631-ARTS. Reviewed July 1. (E.L.)
Mondays-Sundays. Starts: June 30. Continues through July 18, 2010


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