A Musical Joy, 7 February 2010
Author: gary-444 from United Kingdom
A hugely enjoyable screen musical telling the story of the rise of all female, all black singing trio, “The Dreamgirls”. An affectionate pastiche of the story of the “Supremes”, a stellar cast portrays several characters contemporary to that era. For Berry Gordy see James Foxx, for Diana Ross see Beyonce Knowles, for James Brown see Eddy Murphy and for an Etta James / Florence Ballard/ Aretha Franklin composite see Jennifer Hudson. Director William Condon was shrewdly picked acknowledging his previous success as the writer for screen musical success “Chicago”.
An overwhelmingly black cast tells the story, set in Detroit, in two acts. Pre 1970 as the Dreamgirls struggle to make it, and post 1970, when the pitfalls of stardom bite. Adapted from the musical which was “sung through”, this version is predominantly spoken with the original songs as stand-alone pieces. The songs themselves are superb, penned by Henry Krieger, predominantly with Tom Eyen. They effectively recall the sounds , songs, and themes of the time whilst updating the arrangements to resonate with a more contemporary idea of R&B. And all this is played out against a backdrop of Race Riots and racism.
Danny Glover is wonderful as the manager who gets the group noticed only to be out hustled by smooth talking James Foxx as Curtis Taylor Jnr. But it is Jenifer Hudson as Effie White who steals the show. Her raw talent has to defer to the svelte good looks of Beyonce’s Deena Jones, and her portrayal of the angst of first losing lead vocal, then her place in the band and her livelihood is compelling.
Although the social context of this story is well made, it is the music and performances which dominate. Anyone with a love of the Motown / Philly sounds will love this.