The Garden Theatre in Winter Garden is currently showcasing the exhilarating musical “Dreamgirls.” Directed by Delon Grant, the show brings the audience into the world of the Dreamettes, a talented trio of singers, from the very beginning.
The fast-paced nature of the production keeps the energy high throughout, leaving little room for emotional moments. While this consistent tempo adds excitement, it sometimes misses opportunities to delve deeper into the characters’ emotions. Effie, a black woman with immense talent but rejected due to her appearance, sings “Look at me” with anger, but the audience should feel a more profound connection beyond her personal frustration.
Loosely based on the story of Diana Ross and the Supremes, “Dreamgirls” tells the tale of an R&B girl group in the 1960s. Their rise to fame comes at the cost of lead singer Effie, replaced by Deena to appeal to a wider, predominantly white audience.
The performances in the production are commendable. Brianna Lewis portrays Effie with a human touch, infusing her rendition of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” with a mix of anger and sadness. Jazzmin Carson brings a nuanced edge to the character of Deena, adding complexity to the moral dilemmas of friendship and love in a cutthroat industry. Maurice Alpharicio embodies Curtis, a manager driven solely by success, while Demille Cole-Heard shines as Jimmy Early, a soulful musician who compromises his beliefs for fame.
Stephanie Dorcely, James Berkley, and Ishmon Brown provide solid support in their respective roles. The inclusion of live musicians, under the leadership of music director John B. DeHaas, elevates the production, allowing for a vibrant energy that resonates with the singers. However, technical issues, such as late microphone entries and sound level inconsistencies, detract from the overall impact of the live music.
The scenic design by Oceas Rodriguez is visually appealing, though limited by the size of the Garden stage. Ian McDaniel’s video projections and David Clenney’s lighting add dramatic elements to the production. The rented costumes create a vivid representation of the 1960s and ’70s, and Solomon Jaye’s choreography maximizes the stage space while evoking the era.
“Dreamgirls” serves as a reminder of the progress made in society’s attitudes toward race and gender. It sheds light on the unnecessary obstacles faced by individuals like Effie, even in today’s world.
If you’re looking for a captivating journey back in time, “Dreamgirls” at the Garden Theatre is a must-see musical experience.
The show has a duration of 2 hours and 40 minutes, including a break in between.
Location: Garden Theatre, 160 W. Plant St. in Winter Garden
Dates: Running until August 6
Ticket prices: $30-$75