Dare to diva

‘Dreamgirls’ at Schuster Center

By Kate E Lore

Photo: [l to r] Mary Searcy, Jasmin Richardson and Charity Dawson star in ‘Dreamgirls’ National Tour at the Schuster Center June 4-9

Spotlight center stage, where a young woman is fighting for her right to the platform, her deserved moment in the warm heat of stage lighting. This is a musical about performers and oh, does it perform. “Dreamgirls” tells the story of the Dreamettes – a trio of girls trying to break into the music scene of 1962. The girls encounter much personal drama and many struggles in the cutthroat entertainment business. Although successful, they encounter many ups and downs as this story follows the girls for over a decade.

“Dreamgirls” is a Broadway musical composed by Academy Award nominee Henry Krieger, while both the book and the lyrics were done by Tony and Grammy Award winner Tom Eyen. This production is loosely based on the lives of R&B acts like The Supremes, The Shirelles, James Brown, Jackie Wilson and others. “Dreamgirls” runs at the Victoria Theatre June 4-9.

Many people have seen the movie version of “Dreamgirls.” The performances of Beyoncé Knowles and Jennifer Hudson are unforgettable. However, to see this story live and to hear the voices of these girls in person you may develop a new unforgettable “Dreamgirls” memory.

Jasmin Richardson plays the role of Deena Jones, the girl pushed to the lead of the band because she is considered the most attractive. This character grows considerably through the course of the story, which requires some considerable acting chops in addition to incredible vocal talent.

“This is my first leading role,” explained Richardson. “It’s something that is an emotional and physical challenge every night. But it’s so great to be able to do that on stage. I feel like it allows you to grow through the performance as a performer and as a woman to be able to do this every night, especially on a tour.”

Joining Richardson on the stage is Charity Dawson in the role that made Jennifer Hudson a household name, Effie Melody White.

“Charity is one of the most, if not the most, talented woman I have worked with,” Richardson said of her costar. “Effie is a specific character who goes through a lot of emotions and a lot of pain. The beauty is that she can channel everything into that. With her music and delivery in the show.”

Tonyia Myrie Rue finishes the trio, playing Lorrell Robinson in the production.

“Tonyia she’s great, she has a lot of great energy,” Richardson said. “One thing about Tonyia is her young energy and it’s really great to balance between the two women. I have a great time performing with these ladies every night. I love them, I’ve grown to have a great relationship with these women and I could definitely see myself working them again after the show is over. It’s really been a blessing.”

With so much classic Motown involved  with and inspiring this amazing production, it seems to be a requirement that all the stars have an appreciation of the music.

“Growing up, I loved Diana Ross. I loved Motown,” Richardson explained with enthusiasm. “Even though it’s not my time, it’s not my era. Growing up as a young black girl seeing a group like that who has made it in the business and really set themselves apart, especially with Diana Ross who was the most glamorous black woman of her time, it was something that was different – something that I had not seen before. It’s amazing how my life has full circled so that someone I admired as a child is someone who as I woman I get to portray. I’ve always really liked girl groups and harmonies, and you know the beauty in that is that with ‘Dreamgirls’ the audience really sees the behind the scenes. It’s showing you this idea of Motown from two sides, if not three sides.”

For someone who has grown up with the music, treasured it and respected it, this production is more than just a behind the scenes story. It’s a story about the strength of friendship set in an era lost to us now.

“One thing about ‘Dreamgirls’ that I think is so special is the fact that these friends came together, you know, on a journey, and life really tore them apart with one man, but also the weight of time, the weight of popularity, the weight of your career,” said Richardson. “The way that the relationships are owned and how the relationships grow, and even though they come apart at times you always reconnect with your sisters. You may go through some battles, some trials, but the beauty is that if you really do love each other and you really have a great relationship you will come back together.

“What speaks to me the most is the lyrics,” Richardson concluded. “Effie actually sings this lyric at the end; ‘Every band has a dream and that is about to come true. Life is not as bad as it seems if you just open up your eyes to what is right in front of you.’”

“Dreamgirls” runs June 4 – 9 at the Schuster Performing Arts Center, 2 W. Second St. Tickets are $40-$86 (Plus service fees. Prices subject to change.) Showtimes are Tuesday-Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday – 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Ages 13 and up. For more information, visit victoriatheatre.com/shows/dreamgirls/.

Learn more about Kate E Lore and see her web-comics and blog at KateELore.com. Kate can be reached at KateLore@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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