Broadway in the Hood’s ‘Dreamgirls’ sparkles at the Smith Center

Moya Angela as Effie White in Broadway in the Hood’s production of Dreamgirls at the Smith Center’s Reynolds Hall.
Jacob Coakley

Four stars

Dreamgirls May 28, Smith Center.

Broadway in the Hood brought Dreamgirls to the Smith Center’s Reynolds Hall on Saturday, ending a successful inaugural season with a celebration that blew the roof off the joint. The nearly sold-out crowd came ready to have fun, filling the theater with high energy before the show even started.

More than once I heard audience members around me softly sing the first line of the musical classics, then sit and listen to the fantastic actors belt out the rest before rewarding them with thunderous applause. And the cast deserved it. Dreamgirls tracks the rise and fall of a Motown-like girl group in the ’60s and ’70s, and its numbers show off the talents of the performers. The standard, of course, is “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” sung by Effie (played by the riveting Moya Angela) at the end of the first act as she gets booted from the group for being too large and temperamental. Angela’s presence was phenomenal, her phrasing impeccable and her voice amazing. Annetria Scott as Deena had a fine voice, gliding through “Dreamgirls” and “Love Love Me Baby” (with the harmonious Donna Hill and LaShai Reid) but couldn’t compete with Effie for star power.

The show didn’t just belong to the ladies. Artis Grant nearly stole the show as Jimmy Early, a soul juggernaut sauntering his way across the stage, crooning one minute and breaking into soulful shrieks the next. And when Curtis (LeSean Lewis) pleaded to keep Deena in “When I First Saw You” he was oiled steel, smooth and dangerous.

Director Deidre Thompson’s staging had some beautiful moments, especially when it focused on single moments and individual actors. Effie surrounded and isolated on a chair during “Family” was devastating, and the magic in her transformation for “I Am Changing” was still there. The dancers sold Avree Walker’s choreography but could have been a little crisper.

Unfortunately, there were significant audio problems throughout the show. Audio cues got dropped in the mix throughout the show; at times it felt like there weren’t enough mics to go around and Grant’s mic never worked correctly, robbing him of some great moments. In the end, though, the talent onstage could not be denied, deserving every second of the multiple standing ovations.

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