Friday, 29 May 2015

Dreamgirls, May 29, 2015 ***1/2

Music by Henry Krieger, Book & Lyrics by Tom Eyen, produced by Stage Art 
Chapel off Chapel, May 29 until June 14, 2015
Reviewer: Kate Herberton Fri May 29, 2015

Review also in Herald Sun in print and online on Mon, June 1, 2015 KH
 Thando Sikwila, Anna Francesca Armenia, Zenya Carmellotti; Photo:  Belinda Strodder. 

There is plenty to like in Terence O’Connell’s production of Dreamgirls, but it is the phenomenal voice and feisty presence of Thando Sikwila that grab the audience by the collar and make them whoop and cheer.

The Voice television competition launched Thando’s public profile but it is her consummate and effortless control, thrilling, soulful tones and flawless delivery that will sustain her singing career.

Thando embodies the sassy bravado and egotism of Effie White, the vocal powerhouse of fictional 1960s, all-girl trio, The Dreamettes, and she justifies O’Connell’s casting of an acting novice.

Dreamgirls is a backstage tale about friends, Effie (Sikwila), Deena (Anna Francesca Armenia) and Lorrell (Zenya Carmellotti) who are discovered at an amateur competition then become backing vocalists for Soul music legend, Jimmy (Gareth Jacobs).

Their rise to fame and fortune is marred by rivalry, an ambitious manager, broken loyalties, shattered loves and the replacement of the troublesome but ineffably talented Effie, by the more obliging Michelle (Sharon Wills).

Thando performs her songs with passion and nuance, character and emotional truth, and her heart-wrenching version of And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going (made famous by Jennifer Hudson in the 2006 movie) demonstrates her ability to connect to lyrics and emotion without losing any vocal clarity or richness.

The talented, youthful ensemble and seven-piece band, under musical director, Tyson Legg, build a bold, layered sound filled with exhilarating harmonies and inspired choruses in the styles of R and B, Soul, Funk and 1960s Motown (music by Henry Krieger, book and lyrics by Tom Eyen).

Armenia, as Deena, has an attractive voice and captures the fragility of a naive singer groomed for stardom and glamour in a career path that resembles that of Diana Ross.

As young Lorrell, Carmellotti sings with conviction and strength while Wills is an elegant figure with a warm voice.

Winston Hillyer has a commanding presence and fine tone as Curtis Taylor Jr., the girls’ unscrupulous manager, and Jacobs’ vibrant characterisation and assured singing as Jimmy get the crowd hopping.

Augustin Tchantcho is dignified as Marty, Jimmy’s more principled manager, while Djon Alexander plays C.C., Effie’s brother, with a timidity that shifts slowly to rebellion.

Dreamgirls echoes the exuberance and inspiring musical evolution of the Motown sound under the influence of Berry Gordy in the 1960s, but this production has some unevenness in its acting and singing and, on opening night, it suffered a scene-stopping technical glitch in the middle of the first act.

Despite some shortcomings, Dreamgirls is a joyful, toe-tapping party show and it is worth the ticket price just to witness the soaring voice and audacious performance of Thando Sikwila.

By Kate Herbert

Zenya Carmellotti, Anna Francesca Armenia,Thando Sikwila. Photo: Belinda Strodder.

 Creative Team:
Director- Terence O’Connell
Musical Direction - Tyson Legg 
Choreography - Darren Stack

Thando Sikwila as Effie (The Voice, Season 3, Team Kylie)
Anna Francesca Armenia as Deena (Nina, In the Heights)
Zenya Carmellotti as Lorelle (HAIR, Victorian tour)

  Some songs:
  •  Dreamgirls 
  • And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going 
  • One Night Only
  • Listen
  • You’re Steppin’ On My Heart
  • Cadillac Car
  • Fake Tour Way To The Top
  • Steppin’ to the bad Side
  • Party, Party
  • Family
  • Heavy
  • Driving’ Down the Strip

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