Dreamgirls at Chapel off Chapel
It’s unequivocally impressive every time to see just how many of the GLBTIQ community seem to manifest on the opening night of a show as camp and scintillatingly glittery as Dreamgirls: the musical.
In a performance that does its best with limited means to catapult the audience to a time long since passed and a culture that has been worn down to its bare bones, Dreamgirls works as much to the strengths of the original as the shortcomings of some of its cast.
They tell a tale as old as time: the bitter rivalries that all too often appear between successful bands and its members. The lead cast are as fierce as any Beyonce and as captivating as any Destiny’s Child, striking a chord all the way down to the sequined, blindingly fabulous and hilariously camp costumes.
The work of director Terence O’Connell and musical director Tyson Legg gave new life to the classic, turning its earlier-era Americanisms into a more contemporary digestible format. Though working with some clunky choreography and the consistently violent jerky shimmy or sashay by the lead cast, the show’s reproduction of the original was relatively on-point.
Leads Anna Francesca Armenia (Deena Jones), Zenya Camrellotti (Lorell Robinson) and Sharon Wills (Michelle Morris) channelled their inner 1960s and so classically transported the audience in both emotion and enjoyment to a time long since past. Vocals and their individual limitations meant, though, that show classics, most notably Deena’s rendition of Listen, were cut. Likening the loss of Listen to losing an arm is a fair comparison as part of the crux of the show and the continuity of an emotional connection with the lead role of Deena was snuffed.
However it goes without saying, the show was not only stolen, but completely won-over by Thando Sikwila (Effie White) and Gareth Jacobs (Jimmy ‘Thunder’ Early) whose voices both individually and together sent so many shivers of exhilaration through the audience, they were both applauded with a standing ovation on opening night.
Sikwila’s experiences to date in the Australian vocal scene meant that most know or have heard of her. Her solo in the classics And I Am Telling You and One Night Only were so delivered to tee and the emotion so conveyed in a way that Jennifer Hudson would have been as titillated as the rest.
Sikwila’s work was the ideal cover for the clunky, mono-posed and overly operatic vocals of Winston Hillyer (Curtis Taylor Jr.), whose trepidation on stage with acting came close to overshadowing the nature of his character.
Meanwhile Jacobs’ ongoing renditions through the whole performance, channelling of his character Jimmy Early and his comedic interjections of sexual undertone, misogyny and racial acceptance made for an enjoyable and professional performance. The vocal talents of the man though, were not to be overlooked with his classic reproduction of I Meant You No Harm and Ain’t No Party further to his smile-provoking jovial performances.
Dreamgirls is on til 14 June at Chapel off Chapel in Melbourne. See more online (WWW).
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