Monday, February 24, 2014
Theater review: Dreamgirls in Grand Prairie has potential, but isn’t a dream
Sound was a major issue.
GRAND PRAIRIE Dreamgirls, presented by the Grand Prairie Arts Council, is far from a fantasy but not a nightmare either. Plagued by technical sound issues and an actress who can't belt when necessary, the show does offer some stellar lighting and costume designs and passable performances.
There are some wonderful performances given by Victoria Bell and Caleb Ransom, as Effie White and James “Thunder” Early respectively. The star performance of the show, given by Ransom, is incredible, silly and completely entertaining to watch. His first appearance on stage, meeting the Dreamettes and hitting on Lorrell, establishes him as a strong character the audience instantly loves. Early's flamboyant and eccentric personality is well personified by Ransom throughout the entire show, especially in moments like the rap in Act 2 and “Walking Down the Strip” at the end of Act 1.
Bell can sing. Even that might be an understatement. She has the perfect, amazing voice to belt out the diva-like songs Effie White sings in Dreamgirls. It's a good thing she has such a powerful voice to overcome the sound equipment issues, rampant in this production. Her acting is top-notch as well, playing up the selfish diva personality of Effie while still gaining the audience's sympathy with performances like “I am Changing” in the second act.
Unfortunately, as mentioned above, sound is a major issue in this performance. Many of the microphones cut out or loudly “pop” throughout the show Much of that popping comes from, what can be assumed to be, costume changes backstage. They have the same recognizable pattern anybody in theatre would recognize. None of the ensemble is mic'd, making them impossible to hear throughout the entire show. Also, the microphone assigned to Genine Ware had an issue making her voice sound like it is being transmitted through a kazoo. The biggest disappointment is that what the audience could hear was perfectly fine, and that made me long to be able to hear the entire production. The only thing not affected by the sound issues is the live band, which plays fabulously throughout the show.
The lighting, however, is beautiful. The scenes where the Dreams or Jimmy Early are performing have great dynamic lighting with stunning coloring and patterns. In the dialogue scenes the lights fade and follow the focus of the action on stage perfectly. The only mis-cue I could criticize is the bright flash at the end of Act I. It is aimed directly into the audience's eyes and lasts too long. It's painful, like staring into the sun.
The set is adequate though nothing remarkable to report. The best put-together scene, combining all technical elements, is “Stepping to the Bad Side” and that is set with boxes of various heights across the back of the stage, leaving the rest of the stage available for dancing. Some scenes have extra, unnecessary pieces that are only distractions as they are moved mid-scene. The lighting rigs brought in to represent the sides of a stage for the concert performances, then moved according to the orientation of the performance, are not only unneeded but also pull focus away from the scene that is taking place.
Costumes are excellent. Eric Criner had his work cut out for him as every cast member has innumerable costume changes. However, each one is unique, well fitted and suited each character well. From the bed sheet-like flower print dresses the Dreams wear in a television performance, and C. C.'s excellent fashion sense, to the always changing yet similarly-themed costumes worn by John Sanchez, the costumes for Dreamgirls are spot on.
Darius-Anthony Robinson's choreography is as incredible as is expected from a Column Award winner. However, the actors have trouble keeping up with some of the more difficult moves. A few times someone would wobble or trip over a step. More than once, uncertainty in the movement is apparent. I can see what Robinson designed, even if the actors are incapable of fully performing the choreography given to them.
Ware gives a fine performance as Deena Jones, and for the most part sings the part well. However, her inability to belt the high notes when necessary is a severe detriment to the enjoyment of songs like “One Night Only – Disco” or “Dreamgirls.” Her acting serves the part of Deena well but only rises to the level of the performer she's playing with. Her performances in scenes with Victoria Bell are far better than her scenes with Jeremy English.
English's performance is passable but not great. His line delivery lacks emotion or inflection, like he's still reading them from the page. This too can be said for Edwin Oghakpor. However, Oghakpor has his better body awareness onstage. English obviously doesn't know how to stand, move or gesture during the performance.
The baby of the Dreams, Lorrell Robinson, is played beautifully by Deon Sanders, who sings like a dream and acts expertly. Her scenes with Ransom are some of the most entertaining moments in the show. The two covered a missed entrance cue with some quick and funny improvisation, but how many times can you get away with saying the name “Tony Bennett” before the audience catches on?
Finally, Darren McElroy gives a great performance as C. C. White, Effie's brother and songwriter. He's subtle but strong. He doesn't steal any scenes but he contributes to them greatly.
The Grand Prairie Arts Council's production of Dreamgirls is full of potential but, unfortunately, does not achieve the glory of which it is certainly capable. Excellent lighting and performances by Bell and Ransom cannot overcome terrible sound issues and poor performances from supporting actors.
Pegasus News Content partner - John Garcia's The Column
See more stories in:
- Big European concert makes its U.S. debut with stop in Grand Prairie
- Concert review: Demi Lovato shares struggles in intimate hometown show
- Pegasus Music Festival features emo-heavy lineup: Brand New and Cold War Kids
- Photos: In DFW show, Backstreet Boys take themselves way too seriously
- 11 ridiculous photos of the Backstreet Boys, just before their Dallas show