One of the most dazzling music business stories ever staged is finally coming to Windsor. Dreamgirls, the book, movie and musical inspired by Motown and its R&B acts such as The Supremes, The Shirelles, James Brown, Jackie Wilson, and others, will have its debut this week – right across the river from where it all began.
Arts Collective Theatre (ACT) is staging the city’s premiere of the musical for a six show run at the Capitol Theatre, with its opening on Friday night.
The Tony-winning story concerns the upwardly mobile aspirations of African-Americans in the music business in the 1960s and early ’70s. Dreamgirls follows the rise of a trio of women—Effie, Deena and Lorrell, who have formed a promising girl group called The Dreamettes. At a talent competition, they are discovered by an ambitious manager who offers them the opportunity of a lifetime: to become the back-up singers for a famous headliner. The manager gradually takes control of the girls’ look and sound, eventually giving them their own shot in the spotlight as The Dreams. That spotlight, however, begins to narrow in on Deena, finally pushing the less attractive Effie out altogether. Though the Dreams become a crossover phenomenon, they soon realize that the cost of fame and fortune may be higher than they ever imagined.
“It’s a Windsor premiere and at ACT we Always takes chances not that we Don’t take chances – we don’t always do the easy show and this show is actually a very difficult one to do,” said Artistic Director Chris Rabideau. “Detroit has a strong history of music and culture and we really understand that here in Windsor. I’m really hoping that both Windsor and Detroit embrace the show, because we all love that Motown sound.”
It’s a big show with some pretty hefty vocal duties for all the singers involved, but even more so for Effie (played by Flo Ndimubandi), who sings the iconic song And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.
“Being part of Dreamgirls in my community is a huge step that I’m proud of,” added Ndimubandi. “I’m always soft and colourful, but Effie’s role is very strong and full of attitude, so it’s a bit challenging for me. When I first saw the movie in 2009, I thought the whole thing was really beautiful – the story, the dresses and the songs – it was all amazing. What really caught my attention though, was Effie and her song And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going. When she goes off and just belts out every note perfectly, it just felt like something I needed to be part of if the chance ever came.”
Although Dreamgirls is an icon music movie, it required a lot of hard work, elaborate staging and actors with not only strong voices, but the physical ability to re-enact some pretty serious choreography – all while keeping in mind that a cast of predominantly black performers was needed to keep the show’s integrity.
“When you look at this, we have three lead players in the show who are not only dynamic women and amazing singers, but they’re also confident black women,” noted Rabideau. “When was the last time we saw and almost all black cast or even a black lead? I don’t think it’s been done in Windsor before and that’s one thing we’re really proud to offer with this show.”
“It’s a show about female empowerment, with that ‘no man shall take you under’ and ‘you can make it on our own’ type of vibe, and that’s OK. That’s a great message for today and to have a show with a predominantly black cast is very exciting for ACT and for the city.”
With an exciting two weeks ahead of them, ACT is ready to make some musical dreams come true.
Dreamgirls stars Valene Daniel as Deena Jones, Florine Ndimubandi as Effie White, Rochelle Day as Lorrell Robinson and Kamilah Poku-Christian as Michelle Morris. The show runs April 20, 21, 22, 27, 28 and 29 with Friday and Saturday shows at 8pm and Sunday shows at 2pm. Tickets start at $30 and are available at the Capitol Theatre box office.