- Dreamgirls is at the Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 22 January 2022
In all the 40 something years I’ve seen shows at the Bristol Hippodrome – and I have seen a great many – I have never seen an audience spontaneously leap to their feet in a standing ovation before the end of Act 1. And what a well deserved ovation it was.
A cast of brilliant performers takes to the stage with Dreamgirls, playing at the Bristol theatre this month. The fictitious story starts off in the 60s with emerging girl group The Dreamettes, full of hope as they enter a talent contest.
We follow them on their journey – the tribulations of rising to fame, the pressures it brings, the friendships that are put to the the test. It also features the manipulation of women at a time when they had less of a platform and the empowerment of women when they walk away. Thank you to the audience members calling out ‘you go girl’ at one big moment, we were all thinking it. If the show feels familiar, Dreamgirls appears to be loosely- though not officially – based on the history of The Supremes.
The book at times seems a bit light touch on factors affecting the characters due to historical context. It feels like it mentions but brushes past significant issues in Black history, such as the continuing appropriation of black music by white performers and black performers having to adjust their image and sound to break through a white dominated industry.
However, the weaknesses in the book can be entirely forgiven because the show is performed so well and the creative team have put together something quite elegant and entertaining. It’s a musical with with plenty of heart and soul. It doesn’t break into sentimentality, melodrama or over acting, which is refreshing in a musical with plenty of adversity.
By the time we reach Steppin’ To The Bad Side, the show had found its stride. The number is a high point with its smooth and mesmerising dance routine and lighting transitions.
Tim Hatley’s design alongside Hugh Vanstone’s lighting is a vintage wow. It perfectly encapsulates the changing eras and dazzles audiences with sparkle and shimmer on a scale that could land a plane.
There were plenty of showstopping moments throughout, but none so much as Nicole Raquel Dennis’ rendition of And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going. After arriving at a tour date to find out she’s been replaced and ditched, it’s a performance full of power and defiance, which vocally levels this musical up above many of its peers.
We get a second incredible Effie moment during Act 2’s I Am Changing. During a transformation from dowdy single parent to the glamorous power performer she is. Nicole Raquel Dennis’ musical moment with on stage metamorphosis threatens to bring the house down again.
I came to Dreamgirls with no prior knowledge of the musical and having never seen the film. Sometimes this is nice when you see so much theatre. You get to sit back and be taken on a journey with no preconceptions. Nothing to measure it against, which can sometimes steal the joy.
I was thoroughly entertained all evening by a well-crafted musical, moved by the sheer beauty of the vocal performances from exceptional singers and absolutely loved it.
Dreamgirls is at the Bristol Hippodrome until Saturday 22 January 2022
A Captioned and Audio Described performance will take place on Tuesday 11 January at 7.30pm.
For more information about the show and further tour dates, visit: https://www.dreamgirlsthemusical.co.uk/
To book tickets for Bristol, visit: atgtickets.com/Bristol
Photos: Matt Crockett