Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires

Regional Reviews by Zander Opper

Bridgeport Theatre Company

Alana Cauthen, Sean Davis, Jessica Braun, Danielle Summons and Khallid Anthony Graham
Dreamgirls, Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen's 1981 musical, is currently being given a stunning, emotionally charged production by the Bridgeport Theatre Company at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre in Bridgeport, Connecticut. As directed by Christy McIntosh, this Dreamgirls delivers the goods, even on a small-scale budget: prepare yourself for great songs, glittering costumes, stylish hairstyles, and flashy lighting effects. All of these qualities are pretty much a given when seeing any new revival of this musical, but the Bridgeport Theatre Company's production contains something that hasn't always been apparent in the many stagings of Dreamgirls that I have seen over the years—real heart.

Thanks to a wonderful cast and Christy McIntosh's multi-layered direction, this Dreamgirls proves to be truly moving, especially in the emotional second act. This is not saying, however, that the many musical numbers throughout are not exciting as well, for they are as thrilling as I've ever seen them, with the powerful voices and rocking band to put them over. Let's just say that the Bridgeport Theatre Company's production of Dreamgirls is unusually satisfying, complete with the requisite dazzle that one expects, but also the ability to move one to tears.

There are six or seven leading characters in Dreamgirls, and this production is especially fortunate to have all of these roles extremely well cast. In the most famous role of Effie White, Alana Cauthen is terrific, powerfully singing "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" in a stunning voice and also acting the part superbly. Danielle Summons is pretty much ideal as Deena Jones, moving from an insecure girl in the early scenes to a glamorous goddess by the conclusion. As the third girl in the trio Lorrell, the adorable Jessica Paige is extremely winning, especially in her big number, "Ain't No Party." Also, Ryan Elle shines as Michelle, who joins the group later in the show.

And the male characters are just as good. Khallid Anthony Graham is as slick and smooth as manager Curtis Taylor, Jr. needs to be, and he sings the role beautifully. As Effie's brother C.C. White, Garth West is extremely touching, particularly in the first act number, "Family," and Everton Ricketts is quite good as the manager Marty. In the role of James "Thunder" Early, Sean Davis nearly steals the show—he is on fire from beginning to end and possesses the ability to whip the audience into a frenzy several times.

Set designer Doug Frawley, costume designer Jessica Camarero, and lighting designer Phill Hill have each performed a Herculean task to make the show look gorgeous on a limited budget, complete with lighting towers that cast members move around the stage to approximate scene changes and breathtaking costumes that help chart the rise of the girl group from humble beginnings to top of the chart, featuring more sophisticated designs. Also adding to the excitement is the fabulous off-stage band led by Stephanie Gaumer, who plays a reduced orchestration of the score superbly. Of course, none of this would come together without a good director at the helm, and Christy McIntosh delivers as fine a production of Dreamgirls as I have ever seen.

Still, those emotional moments throughout are what most affected me the most. At its center, Dreamgirls is truly a musical about a family breaking apart and then coming back together, and it is this part of the story that is capable of touching an audience deeply. Happily, this production manages to have it both ways: we get all the thrilling numbers that the show is known for, as well as scenes that can break your heart. By all means, see the Bridgeport Theatre Company's production of Dreamgirls at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre for an especially exciting and emotional evening of theatre.

Dreamgirls continues at the Downtown Cabaret Theatre in Bridgeport, Connecticut through February 1st. For tickets, please visit www.BridgeportTheatre.org or call the box office at 203-576-1636.

Photo: Kevin McNair

Also see the current theatre schedule for Connecticut & Beyond

- Zander Opper