‘Dreamgirls’ serves the soul at Bowie State University

In a triumphant return to in-person performances, the BSU (Bowie State University) Theater dream girls brought equal parts soul, power and drama to its thrilled opening night audience in its state-of-the-art 400-seat Main Theater. This sensational musical was co-directed by Elena Velasco and Raven Wilkes, and its music was directed by Josh Sommerville. With its story of a star-studded love triangle and iconic songs such as “And I Am Telling You”, this show is an incredible crowd pleaser.

dream girls – with music by Henry Krieger and lyrics and book by Tom Eyen – is based on the story of Motown’s The Supremes. It follows the rise of three black singers as they attempt to break into the music industry through mountain peaks and heartbreaking lows.

Kamri Johnson (as Deena, center) with Trinity Cephas, Keilyn Cook, Ariana Fobbs, Trina Gantt, Bria Mukes, Ragan Savage in ‘Dreamgirls’; also featured are Brielle Bertrand (Lorrell) and Angélique Sterling (Michelle). Photo by Joseph Edwards, Single Eye Photography.

This show features three exceptional tracks. The Dreamettes consisted of Kaitlyn McGhee as Effie Melody White (Kayla Adams will play Effie during the Friday and Saturday night performances), Kamri Johnson as Deena Jones and Brielle Bertrand as Lorrell Robinson. Each of these actors brought a unique and wonderful cachet to their roles.

With legendary talents such as Jennifer Holliday, Loretta Divine and Sheryl Lee Ralph in the original 1981 Broadway production, and Jennifer Hudson and Beyonce in the 2006 film version, there is a golden tradition of black female talent in Dream girls’ line.

The other major players provided a fruitful base for the three runs to play with. Daniel Young channeled a touch from R&B singer James Brown — always on hand (and practical) with the ladies — in his portrayal of James “Thunder” Early. Grace Pugh effectively played the male role of Marty, Early’s manager. Kristopher Harris played CC (Clarence Cornel) White, Effie’s brother, and Raymond Ingram played Dreamettes manager Curtis Taylor Jr. with panache.

In this fictionalized account of The Supremes’ background, the Chicago-based Dreamettes’ journey to stardom began with a losing singing contest at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York, after which they met their future manager. , Curtis Taylor Jr. (Ingram).

Curtis hatched a plan for the Dreamettes to become backup singers for Early, and then Curtis turned things around by having Jimmy aim for pop stardom. To that end, CC composed “Cadillac Car” for Jimmy and The Dreamettes, who toured with the song “Cadillac Car (On the Road)”. McGhee, Johnson and Bertrand brought verve and passion to this tune.

In real life, The Supremes’ Florence Ballard was replaced by Sidney Birdsong, and on this show, Effie was replaced by the fictional Michelle Morris. Angelique Sterling’s Morris made a grand entrance onstage through the courtroom to the left, and she brought elegance to every scene she was in.

This musical is known for “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”. Any rendition of this song must be not only good but excellent. The song should be sung with the anguish of a woman facing professional and personal turmoil. With every fiber of his being, McGhee pulled it off (and even his wig) in lavish style.

Kamri Johnson (Deena), Kaitlyn McGhee (Effie), Brielle Bertrand (Lorrell) and Daniel Young (James “Thunder” Early) in “Dreamgirls”. Photo by Joseph Edwards, Single Eye Photography.

The second act brought the new name of The Dreams into the 70s and saw them become the most popular girl group in the country. Curtis and Deena were married, and CC had a passionate relationship with Michelle. Backpack Effie was back in Chicago, single mother to Magic, her daughter. Ingram and Johnson as Curtis and Deena (fictional versions of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr. and Diana Ross) gave us the beautiful duet “You Are My Dream.”

Pugh, as Marty, begged Effie to make a comeback with the emotional “I Am Changing”. Young’s rendition of “The Rap” was funny funk. Dreams’ “One Night Only” with Effie’s backing was powerful and passionate.

Asjah Johnson brought energy to her roles as MC and announcer. Evan Hoffman sarcastically portrayed Dave of Dave and the Sweethearts, a white singer who covered “Cadillac Car (On the Road)” from singer Pat Boone.

Bria Mukes served as dance captain and played Mrs. Morgan. Stage manager Keilyn Cook was also part of the Ensemble. Other notable members of the Ensemble were Kennedy Howard, Aniyah Clarke, Trinity Cephas and Dawn Belton.

Sparkly dresses, lavender suits, bodycon dresses – the flashy and daring fashions of the 60s and 70s were brought to life in the impressive costume design of Imari Pyles. Another styling element of the show’s period was hair; Shalom Omo-Osagie certainly brought the glitz and glamor with her wig design. The wigs brought personality and a flattering face shape to each of the female leads, and an aura from James Brown to Mr. Young.

Kayla Adams (Effie) in “Dreamgirls”. Photo by Joseph Edwards, Single Eye Photography.

The cast moved with beautiful synchronicity in numbers such as “Ain’t No Party” thanks to co-director/choreographer Raven Lorraine. Sommerville’s musical direction was strong, but at times the music and musicians — center-left of the house and visible to the audience — drowned out some of the voices on stage. The Apollo Theater marquee brought to life in 3D, from the curtains, courtesy of Jeremy Bennett Projections Design.

BSU Theater dream girls is a gem of a show. You’ll get more value than the ticket price, so be sure to check it out.

Duration: approximately 2h30 with a 15 minute intermission.

dream girls April 21-23, 2022 at 7:30 p.m. and April 22-23 at 2:30 p.m. at the Bowie State University Fine & Performing Arts Center, Main Stage Theatre, 14000 Jericho Park Road, Bowie, MD. For tickets ($10), call (301) 860-4000 or purchase on line.

The program for dream girls is online here.

COVID safety: The BSU Theater and Department of Fine and Performing Arts require proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test for all audience members in attendance. Please note that masks are recommended.

SEE ALSO:
Celebrating the Vision of Black Women in ‘Dreamgirls’ at Bowie State University (Feature by Elena Velasco and BSU Theater Faculty)

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