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REVIEW: Dreamgirls at the Savoy . . . showstopping performances unlikable characters

     After lots of anticipation, the latest Broadway transfer has finally arrived in London’s West End to be greeted with hype, full houses and people scrambling for tickets

     The show is a spectacle from beginning to end. Bright lights and costumes, lots of glitter and a smattering of stage magic make the show a feast for the eyes. The cast too are exceptional. Amber Riley earns her star billing by demonstrating the sheer power of her voice, filling the theatre with a sound that sends shivers down your spine. She is matched in ability by the rest of the cast, all of who are equally talented as is the orchestra, supporting the show stopping performances. 
     With all this in mind I had to question, why was I not absorbed in the show, the story and the characters? I think the answer is that, as brilliant as the portrayals were, I don’t feel the character of Effie is likable. This is not to say that I didn’t like Riley’s performance, I did, but the character behaves in the manner of a sulky, spoiled brat meaning I felt it difficult to empathise with her. 
     Yes I can understand her frustration, disappointment and anger at being removed from lead vocals in the group, but the selfishness that exudes from that and her destructive behaviour thereafter is inexcusable. She becomes malicious, rude and nasty to lifelong friends, so much so, that when they are reconciled at the end and she joins the new group for a final performance, I felt like she didn’t deserve to be there.
     I appreciate that I am in the minority and many people love the story and would happily go and see it again and again. Indeed, two days after seeing it, my girlfriend has booked to go with her mum and sisters later in the run. 
     The performances from the actors and the staging mean you don’t leave feeling cheated and you still have the sense you have seen a good performance, however if depth of character and plot if what you are looking for, you may feel short changed. 

 


Harrison Fuller

Theatre manager, writer, maker.


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