Originally conceived in the mid-70s as a vehicle for Nell Carter but opening on Broadway in 1981 with Jennifer Holliday in the role that might have been Carter’s (if Carter’s Hollywood career had not blown up), Tom Eyen and Henry Krieger’s musical about the rise of an African American girl group the Dreams (modeled on the Shirelles and the Supremes) is remarkably fresh and cliché-free for a showbiz bio. Even the score, which intentionally mimics tunes of the era (early 60s to mid-70s), never for a moment feels fake, forced, or recycled.
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Dreamgirls Through 10/16: Wed 1:30 and 7 PM, Thu 7 PM, Fri 8 PM, Sat 3 and 8 PM, Sun 1 and 5:30 PM; ASL interpretation Fri 10/14 8 PM, Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena, Aurora, 630-896-6666, paramountaurora.com, $28-$79
My current enthusiasm for this show is all the greater because of the flawless, full-throttle revival I saw this weekend running at Aurora’s Paramount Theatre. There is not a slow minute or false step in this glorious production. Eyen and Krieger pack a lot of musical history into the show’s two and a half hours—which includes references to payola, cultural appropriation, the rise of rock ’n’ roll, the breaking up of showbiz segregation—and at times two or three plot lines are playing out in a single musical number. But under Christopher D. Betts’s direction and Amy Hall Garner’s powerful choreography, it all unfolds gracefully, flowing from one vivid number to the next on Jeffrey D. Kmiec’s inventive, eye-pleasing set.
The ensemble couldn’t be tighter, led by Taylor Marie Daniel as the Diana Ross-like Deena Jones and Lorenzo Rush Jr.’s Berry Gordy-ish Curtis Taylor Jr. And Naima Alakham simply kills as Effie, the cast-off member of the Dreams who must find her own path to greatness.