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Dreamgirls are Screamgirls at the Academy of Music

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Dreamgirls at the Academy of MusicDreamgirls follows the dreams of three talented young ladies from Chicago as they go from nervous backup singers to superstars. It's 1962, Effie, Deena and Lorell find themselves in the wings of the Apollo Theater in Harlem in a talent contest that lands them the background vocals spot for soul singer James Thunder Early. But the girls are not alone. With the help of Effie's younger brother and songwriter C.C. White who eventually writes them a hit song, only to have it compromised by a shifty manager Curtis Taylor, Jr. 

The trio undergo trials, betrayal and loyalty at the hands of one another and others as they learn the heartbreak of show business. But in the end the dream comes full circle. 

Despite the glitzy sometimes gorgeous costumes this touring production becomes a showcase of poorly matched female singers that range from shrieking to fading voices from one similar song after another. Moya Angela’s voice is like a freight train as Effie in an emotionless character, which is the role made famous by Jennifer Hudson in the film. Her rendition of “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” is more of an angry nervous breakdown. The other Dreamettes are unimpressive, interchangeable, and shallow Barbie dolls with attitude in knocked out dresses. 

Dreamgirls at the Academy of MusicThe redeeming entertainment is the male characters. Chester Gregory plays James “Thunder” Early has soul, which the show is lacking, passion and dance moves that wake up the crowd. Chaz Lamar Shepherd’s Curtis Talyor. Jr. is a despicable enough to be engaging and Trevor Davis as C.C. White plays his role, which pales in comparison to the other character roles, with a measure of compassion. All the male vocals are more than adequate. 

Set designs by Robin Wagner consist of tall metal panels that revolve which lighting designer Howard Binkley takes to a fairly impressive level of flash and creativity. Ken Robertson’s choreography is inconsistent and choppy, with “Steppin’ to the Bad Side” one of the few well executed numbers. 

DREAMGIRLS plays at the Academy of Music for a limited engagement June 22 – 27. 

For tickets and information call 215.731.3333 online at www.kimmelcenter.org. Next season's broadway show listings are available now and include Jersey Boys, South Pacific and Les Miserables

Photos: Joan Marcus