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Dreamgirls at Pittsburgh Musical Theater

It’s one of the most entertaining musicals of the past 50 years


Those involved with the 1981 Broadway musical Dreamgirls claimed they were shocked, shocked! that people thought it was about Berry Gordy and Diana Ross and The Supremes. Composer Henry Krieger, lyricist and book-writer Tom Eyen, and director/choreographer Michael Bennett denied any connection, while admitting privately their denial was based on the fear of a Gordy lawsuit.

In any case, they created one of the most entertaining musicals of the past 50 years, as Pittsburgh Musical Theater’s latest production proves.

It was Bennett’s desire to stage a highly cinematic show, with only cross-fades and jump-cuts via four enormous moving metal and Plexiglas towers instantly establishing the musical’s locales.

Obviously, Pittsburgh Musical Theater lacks those million-dollar resources to stage this backstage story of a girl group (the Dreamettes), their rise to stardom and the personal cost celebrity brings. PMT’s set designer, Jeff Perri, has been very clever stretching a tiny budget to look like something a whole lot bigger and very nearly succeeds. Christopher Patrick and Tony Sirk must be recuperating in a rest home after supplying the sheer volume of defining wigs and costumes, and musical director Brent Alexander and his orchestra are also probably dizzy and panting, having played through this huge score (Dreamgirls is almost entirely sung-through) with such energy and pace.

Director/choreographer Bob Durkin is the man responsible for pulling all these elements into a cohesive whole. Because he can’t fill the stage with much in the way of a set, he wisely populates the space with exceptionally talented performers.

Adrianna Cleveland has the unenviable task, as Effie, of singing that musical-theater mountain “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going”; Cleveland has no trouble navigating the terrain, and tops herself with the second-act solo “I Am Changing.” Delana Flowers and Anastasia Talley, playing Lorrell and Deena, are as equally outfitted with superb voices and get plenty of chances to unfurl them.

Durkin hasn’t neglected the male side of the equation, especially with Monteze Freeland bringing his own powerful, gorgeous voice to the role of Curtis, Jason Shavers finding the complexity of Marty, and LaTrea Rembert stealing just about every scene he’s in as James “Thunder” Early.

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