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Live / stage review

Dreamgirls: Thoroughly entertaining, slick and talent-packed

Swinging Sixties Motown homage musical still has plenty to say about racism and sexism in the music industry.

9 March 2022 at
Dreamgirls Tour21 Matt Crockett 5890 RT Sm
Matt Crockett

The Lyceum is taken back to the Swinging Sixties with the arrival of Dreamgirls, a musical which charts the rise, fall and backstage bickering of all-girl group The Dreamettes.

Getting a lucky break from an unscrupulous and opportunist manager, the group is thrust into the limelight, but when the talented Effie White is pushed out of the spotlight to be replaced by the less talented but more attractive Deena Jones, and Lorrell falls in love with serial womaniser Jimmy ‘Thunder’ Early, things start to fall apart. As tensions rise, the girls find their voice—and not just on the stage.

There is more than a passing nod to Diana Ross and the Supremes, James Brown and Motown Records in Dreamgirls, but what is striking is that despite the show premiering in 1981, it still has plenty to say about racism and sexism in the music industry. The production prominently features a female-centric story about the independence and self-empowerment of women. Effie is headstrong, non-nonsense and fiercely independent, Deena realises that her talents lay beyond her looks, and Lorrell learns that she doesn’t have to be underappreciated to find love.

The show is akin to a sing-through musical, with a combination of show-stopping songs and musical numbers that beautifully reflect the era and sound instantly familiar, whilst the costumes, lighting design and simple yet versatile set easily portray the passing of time and the varying locations.

But what makes this production really stand out is a well-rounded and talented cast, particularly the performances of the three female leads. Natalie Kassanga (Deena) and Paige Peddie (Lorrell) handle the vocal gymnastics beautifully, whilst Nicole Raquel Dennis delivers an absolute powerhouse of a performance as Effie, bringing the audience to its feet as she closes the first act with an emotional performance of ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going’.

Dreamgirls is a thoroughly entertaining, slick and talent-packed show which is simultaneously heart-breaking and hopeful, ultimately leaving the audience with a feeling of optimism and empowerment.

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Dreamgirls runs at Sheffield Lyceum until 19th March 2022.

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