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Review: 'Dreamgirls' national tour

November 4, 2010

When someone buys a ticket to a Broadway in Indianapolis offering, he or she deserves a production as strong as “Dreamgirls,” which is playing at the Murat Theatre at Old National Center through Sunday.

The first-class tour launched almost a year ago—with the same trio of dreamy leads—but there was not a trace of road fatigue on opening night.

If you’ve only seen the film, you may not realize how theatrical of a show “Dreamgirls” has always been. Originally directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett (“A Chorus Line”), it was designed to move seamlessly from scene to scene, song to song, and costume change to how-did-they-do-that costume change. The tour’s director/choreographer Robert Longbottom stays true to that idea and scenic designer Robin Wagner and lighting designer Ken Billington deserve high praise for keeping things eye-popping. Kudos, too, to the band and sound crew for keeping the audio crisp and clear.

All of that would be mere dressing, though, without Dreams we can believe in. And each member of that fictional singing group offers a winning, multi-leveled, beautifully sung performance. With her show stopping “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” and local roots, Moya Angela has been getting the most attention, but Syesha Mercado as pushed-to-the-front Deena and Adrienne Warren as the more easily manipulated Lorrell are equally fine. And all remarkably transform from naïve young girls to adult women over the course of the show.

The men, too, are across-the-board strong, with Chester Gregory from Broadway’s “Hairspray” and “Cry Baby” at the flamboyant front. But Chaz Lamar Shepherd gives dimension to the opportunistic Curtis and Trevon Davis is a C.C. whose love for his sister is palpable.

In addition to the performances, I left with even more respect for Henry Krieger’s score, which does much more than merely mimic an era in music history, but simultaneously develops the characters in interesting and not-always-obvious ways. It takes guts and confidence to put a song as powerful as “And I am Telling You” at around the half way point in a show. But Krieger’s score keeps on delivering.

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