Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Also see Zander's review of The Revolutionists
Director Brian Crook has done a great job of casting performers with strong voices and equally strong acting skills. In the role of Effie White, Alana Cauthen is sensational, but this production allows all of the leading characters to shine. Perry Liu's set design is basically skeletal, yet effective, consisting of four lighting towers that are moved around to shape the various scenes. Emily Frangipane's exciting choreography allows the show to be continually on the move, as it must be. Fairfield Center Stage is a relatively new theatre company in Connecticut, but they have hit the bullseye with their exhilarating production of Dreamgirls.
Alana Cauthen delivers an emotionally charged "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," but she is just as good singing "I Am Changing" and "One Night Only." Rachelle Legrand is a wonderful Deena Jones, who seems to grow up persuasively as the show progresses, starting from her awkwardness in the opening talent contest to being one of the most glamorous divas in the music industry. That said, the director has made sure that, in addition to shining in their big onstage musical numbers, both Cauthen and Legrand give performances that are both touching and multi-layered in their characters' off-stage moments.
Khallid Graham is shark-like and ideal as the devious manager Curtis Taylor, Jr., and his duet with Legrand, "When I First Saw You," is just beautiful. Everton Ricketts is dynamic as Jimmy Early, with a humane side as well. Perhaps the most sympathetic performance is delivered by the warm Garth West as Effie's brother C.C. White. His scenes with Cauthen in the second half of the show definitely pierce the heart.
Jessica Paige is funny and lively as Lorrell Robinson, with her big number, "Ain't No Party," a definite highlight. In slightly smaller, though just as important, roles, Renee Sutherland is a lovely and talented Michelle Morris and Jeramie Gladman practically breaks your heart as Marty, one of the managers. The remaining company members are extremely versatile and excellent singers and dancers.
Christy McIntosh-Newsom is responsible for the luxurious array of costumes the Dreams wear, with a gorgeous assist from wig designers Bobbie Pinz and Jessica Camarero. The lighting design by Chris Palazini is spellbinding, and expert music director Eli Newsom leads the fantastic off-stage band without missing a beat.
The Fairfield Center Stage production of Dreamgirls looks and sounds phenomenal and it should please fans of this musical and make converts of those who are new to the show.
Dreamgirls, through March 9, 2019, at Black Rock Church, 3685 Black Rock Turnpike, Fairfield CT. 2019. For tickets, please visit www.fairfieldcenterstage.org.