LINCOLNSHIRE, Ill.—Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire is known for its magical staging of large Broadway productions on a small arena stage and for the glorious casting that brings their shows to life. “Dreamgirls,” the Broadway musical, which then became an award-winning film, is a perfect example.
With book and lyrics by Tom Eyen and music by Henry Krieger, this musical follows a rags-to-riches story of a mythical group of singers (reminiscent of Diana Ross and The Supremes), who go from nothing to fame during the early 1960s.
Three young, hopeful singers land in New York for a talent contest, which they lose. Because of a young, hungry, and energetic would-be agent, though, they are hired to do backup for a rising star and then become stars on their own.
But the story is not all roses and chocolates. This agent, Curtis Taylor Junior (deftly handled by Byron Glenn Willis), makes changes in the group so that their music will prosper, and these changes alter their fate as well as their sound.
While the show starts in Chicago and heads to New York and ports beyond, the music is the sound of Motown rhythm and blues.
Marriott Theatre is known for finding solid talent for its shows, from its ensembles to its leads. The singers are played with just the right touch. Deena (the lovely Britney Coleman), Lorrell (the delightful Rashidra Scott), and Effie (Raena White, who will get into your heart and soul with her acting and vocal range—what an amazing talent) are vibrant with strong and powerful voices.
Director and choreographer Marc Robin’s magical eye makes even the smallest of movements important to the story.
The musical direction by Doug Peck is of the highest standards, and the eight-piece orchestra under the direction of Patti Garwood (keyboard) fills the theater with pure Motown sound.
Among the many wonderful moments is the closing number of the first act—Effie’s “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” is a showstopper. The audience applauded for almost three minutes after the lights dimmed. I think if Ms. White had stayed onstage under lights, she would have been given a standing ovation, right then and there.
I was very impressed by the performance of Eric LaJuan Summers as James “Thunder” Early—he is a treat to watch on stage.
Travis Turner brings just the right touch to C.C. White (Effie’s brother and composer of her music).
Marty was handled with a smooth performance by Trinity P. Murdock (a familiar face from Black Ensemble Theater). The ensemble of players is extraordinary with some very strong voices as well.
The costumes were marvelous (Nancy Missimi has outdone herself on this one) and the wigs fantastic under great lighting (Jesse Klug) on a unique set by Thomas M. Ryan.
Add to this effort sound design by Robert E. Gilmartin, along with props by Sally Weiss, and you can see why this is a solid two and a half hours of utter enjoyment.
If you enjoy the sounds of the 60s, in particular, Motown, you will truly enjoy this production. If you love good musical theater filled with fine singing and acting, this is one for you.
10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire, Ill.
Tickets: 847-634-0200 or visit www.ticketmaster.com
Running Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Closes: Oct. 28
Alan Bresloff writes about theater in and around the Chicago area.
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