Thursday, May 16, 2013

Review: (Vancouver) Dream Girls

Aurianna Angelique (photo: David Cooper)
Dreamgirls is glitz, glam, and so very showbiz
Aurianna Angelique is powerful and passionate as Effie
by Chris Lane

Dreamgirls is about selling a performance, and selling a song, and the cast at the Arts Club truly sells this show. It’s full of Motown soul and a whole lotta vocal talent.

The hit Broadway musical chronicles the story of the Dreamettes, a Motown trio inspired by the story of the Supremes. They start out as a closely-knit group fronted by Effie, before the slick and smooth Curtis Taylor Jr. moulds them into a money-making pop group. Dreamgirls is an homage to the sounds of Motown, with an engaging storyline that still resonates today.

But what really sold me on this production was its signature tune, And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.

The acting is exaggerated and at times campy, which took some getting used to, but the show soon grew on me as they nailed certain songs such as Cadillac Car and Steppin’ to the Bad Side.

But what really sold me on this production was its signature tune, And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going. Aurianna Angelique delivers an incredibly passionate performance of the very challenging song. She truly pushes her body, voice and soul to the limit in her performance, and it works wonders.

Angelique is the true star of the show in her role as Effie, the heavyset singer with a powerful voice who gets pushed aside by Curtis in favour of the camera-friendly Deena. She gives such life and emotion to her solos, adding to her very impressive vocals and captivating stage presence.

Hector Johnson created a charming and distinctive star as Jimmy Early, a Motown soloist, delivering some excellent performances with a unique brand of soul and funk. Ian Yuri Gardner was notable for his rich voice and animated singing style as Effie’s songwriting brother C.C., while Daren Herbert was commanding onstage as Curtis. Effie’s fellow Dreamettes were well-cast, with Karen Holness as the dashing Deena, and Star Domingue bringing to life the story arc of the lovable third Dreamgirl, Lorrell.

The costumes were dazzling, showcasing Motown looks from the 60s and 70s, while the set looked great as the various stages the Dreams were performing on.

The songs were generally excellent in this production, although One Night Only wasn’t quite the classic I had hoped to see and hear. By and large, the musical side of the production was impressive, although the acting didn’t always live up to the same standard. The characters would have been more relatable if their reactions were toned down a tad. The choreography was effective, with a few very talented dancers, although a bit more polish could have sent this production to the top of the charts. 

Dreamgirls is a fun and sparkling production, and Aurianna Angelique makes it memorable with her passionate solos as Effie.

Arts Club artistic director Bill Millerd directs this production of Dreamgirls, which can be seen at the Arts Club’s Stanley stage until July 7.

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